Thursday, May 12, 2022

Reviving the Jonglei Canal Project is rubbing an old wound and wiping up anti-Egyptian sentiments


By John A. Akec*


Rubbing an Old Injury

The recent pronouncements about a plan to conduct feasibility studies on the defunct Jonglei Canal Project by the Vice President for Infrastructure. H.E. Taban Deng Gai, with the backing of South Sudan’s Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation, Hon. Manawa Peter Gatkouth, has raised eyebrows and risked opening up the old wounds that were thought to have long been forgotten and healed. The controversial project was agreed by Sudan and Egypt in 1974 and the construction of the canal began in 1977 against the wishes of South Sudanese population. However, seven years into the beginning of the digging of the canal, the construction was halted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in 1984 following the kidnapping of French construction workers and engineers at the site. As a consequence, the giant equipment owned by a French company which was used to carry out the massive excavation work was dismantled and its parts laid to waste.


The revival of the resumption of debate on the Jonglei Canal Project which was contrived to benefit Egypt and Sudan at the great costs for South Sudan’s future water security and sustainability of the Sudd Wetland has caused a stir and horror amongst the ordinary public, civil society groups, academia, and legislature. According to Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Manawi Gatkouth, the new feasibility study is intended to explore the possibility of utilizing the 270 km of canal that was completed and abandoned as a solution to the problem of flooding which Jonglei and Unity states have been experiencing in the last three consecutive years (2019, 2020, and 2021).   


The History of Jonglei Canal Project

The Jonglei Canal Project was first conceived by a British engineer in Cairo back in 1904. The aim of the project was to increase the amount of Nile water flowing to Egypt and Sudan from Bahr Jebel and Bahr El Ghazal basins by 4 billion to 10 billion cubic meters per year, on premises that this amount of water was being  ‘lost to evaporation’ in the Sudd wetland. Recovery of the ‘lost water’ to evaporation was to be achieved through constructing of a canal , later named Jonglei Canal, that will divert significant amounts of water coming from Lake Victoria and then flows through Bahr Jebel directly into a junction a few kilometers north of Malakal, where Sobat River joins up with the White Nile before flowing northwards to Sudan and Egypt.


Successive Anglo-Egyptian colonial administrations, as well as post colonial governments in both Sudan and Egypt, reworked and refined the project concept in order to reduce flooding in in regions of Sudan, and to minimize the negative impacts the project was bound to have on the Sudd wetland and its ecology. The final design was commissioned in 1974 and implementation began in 1977. It involved the construction of a 340 km-long canal from town of Bor to connect Bahr Jebel to White Nile a few kilometers north of Malakal , at the point where the Sobat River joins up with White Nile.


Benefits and Environmental Impacts

The Jonglei Canal was calculated to give Egypt and Sudan extra 10 billion cubic meters of water that was to be equally shared between the two countries. If implemented successfully, it would allow Egypt to cultivate and irrigate an additional 2 million hectares of agricultural lands along the Nile, and hence boost food security for its increasing population and industrial development. Some of the benefits to South Sudan, as claimed by the Project’s proponents, included draining of flood plains in Jonglei state, and allowing agricultural and industrial development in the area as well as enhancing river transportation between Juba and Sudan.


However, such diversion of huge amounts of water from the Sudd Wetland, according to environmentalists and water experts, has the potential of draining and destroying the Sudd’s ecosystem with dire consequences on the Sudd’s region biodiversity, livelihoods, culture, and hydrological cycle of Bahr Ghazal and Bahr Jebel basins.


One of the catastrophic impacts on the basins’ hydrological cycle is that the 10 billion cubic meters of water eyed by Sudan and Egypt and which evaporates from the Sudd and carried by the northern wind to south west of the of the country is responsible for rains in the “green belt” that comprises western Bahr Ghazal, western Equatoria, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, and north western Uganda. And once the Sudd loses that capability to cause rains through evaporation of its water, the “green belt” will cease to enjoy all-year round rains, and the above places will become as dry and arid as eastern Equatoria. In short, the cost will not only be borne by the nearly 2 million people who currently benefit directly from the Sudd’s ecosystem services, but also its negative consequences will be felt far and wide in the region including 97% of South Sudanese population living in Nile Basin.


Finally, environmentalists have argued that vast parts of Jonglei are flood plains (from which parts of the region derived its name Bor) had experienced frequent flooding in the 1960s. And that rushing to reopen the debate on controversial and bitterly opposed Jonglei Canal as a quick solution to problems caused by flooding without first considering less damaging options is anything but wise.


Potential solutions to flooding include: construction of dykes, resettlement of the affected population in high lands, and climate adaptation, among others.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

South Sudan: The Wages Our Public Sector Employees Deserve


By John Apuruot Akec


Individuals sacrifice significant amounts of leisure time for labour by putting their skills and energies into work in return for earning income. By so doing, they meet their families’ daily wants for food and clothing, accommodation, education, healthcare, and travel and transportation. Country’s macroeconomic performance is measured by the rate of unemployment (the number of people looking for work but can’t find it) besides inflation and rate of growth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The lower the rate of unemployment of an economy, the easier it is to find work, and the healthier the economy is said to be performing. The reverse is true. Namely, the higher the rate of unemployment, the poorer the economic performance.  


The demand for labour is derived from economic activity arising from needs by consumers and governments for goods and services. Hence, if there is no consumption, there is no production, and hence the higher the unemployment. And if there is no employment, there is no consumption, and the downward spiral of an economy continues until it is broken by injection of new investment, public or private. The new investment creates new jobs, and kick-starts the demand for goods and services, and leading to economic growth.


What’s more, an economy that pays higher real wages per hour of work, provides a better quality of life to its citizens than one that does otherwise. Higher wages attract more individuals to sacrifice leisure for work in expectation of receiving incomes capable of satisfying their wants. And here lies the challenge for South Sudan. The nation has one of the lowest pay structures for public servants in the region.


A taskforce set up by the University of Juba in collaboration with Sudd Institute and Ebony Centre for Strategic Studies, and which was chaired by this author in January 2021, was able to unearth startling facts about the remuneration of employees of our public sector.  A private soldier receiving monthly wage of 600 South Sudanese pounds in 2011 was earning the equivalent of USD 200 a month. Today, a private soldier receives about SSP 3,000 (after 300 percent increment in 2016 and and 200 percent increment in 2021, respectively). This wage is now worth a mere USD 6 at today’s exchange rate. Likewise, a member of national legislative assembly was receiving a basic pay of SSP 7,000 per month in 2011 and which was equivalent to USD 2,300 per month. However, by 2021, the value of the salary received by a member of parliament in real term was equivalent to USD 15 per month. These low salaries cut across a wide spectrum of public sector institutions, with exception of universities which have seen two consecutive adjustments to inflation in 2015 and 2019 respectively.


Many factors, according to the finding of the Taskforce, have contributed to prevalence of low wages in the public sector in South Sudan. Foremost, the depreciation of the national currency against the dollar has caused the stagnant salaries of public sector employees (valued in South Sudanese pounds) to lose their purchasing power steeply. This loss of purchasing power in turn has led to declining living standards of public sector employees. In a well managed economy, wages are adjusted to inflation in order to maintain the purchasing power.


Second, the shares of wage bill as percentage of public expenditure and revenue have continued to decline sharply over the past seven years. In fiscal year 2015/16, the share of public wage bill as percentage of public expenditure stood at 51% (compared to 18% in Kenya). By 2019/2020, that share had declined to 13% (compared to 17% in Kenya). Seen in terms of share of public revenue, the share of wage bill as percentage of public revenue in South Sudan was 78% in fiscal year 2015/2016 (compared to 51% in Kenya). By 2020, the share of wage bill had fallen by a staggering 61 percentage points to 17% (compared to 48% in Kenya in which the share of public wage bill fell by a minuscule 3 percentage points over the same period).


Thirdly, South Sudan came out to have the largest headcount of the organised forces in Sub Sahara Africa. Our organised forces’ headcount is twice that of Nigeria, three times that of Ethiopia and Sudan, nine times that of Uganda, and fourteen times that of Tanzania. In addition, the military expenditure (amounting to 61% of public expenditure) is fifteen times the share of Nigeria’s and Ethiopia’s, twelve times that of Kenya, and twice that of Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania combined. It is an incredible drain on the economy without apparent benefits in terms of improved security across the country, while South Sudan’s organised forces remains as one of the lowest paid, poorly trained, and poorly equipped armies in the region.


The solution? Adjust the public sector pay to inflation with 2011 salaries as the baseline, and using consumer price index (CPI) to compute the new wages. Thus, a private soldier’s gross pay will need to rise to SSP 80,000 per month on today’s prices from the current SSP 3,000 per month; a member of parliament monthly gross pay will be SSP 1.2 million when adjusted to inflation; a government minister pay will receive be receiving SSP 1.8 million as opposed to SSP 10,000 per month base pay; while a grade 1 civil servant monthly pay should be SSP 400,000, and a grade 17 worker wage will come to SSP 55,000 per month.


These are just a few examples among so many categories of public sector wages that can potentially be adjusted to inflation. To do so will count as a good beginning that must be sustained and improved as our economy grows and stabilises.


Friday, October 01, 2021

Supporting Economic Growth Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship



By John A. Akec*


Institutions are established in order to carry out specific mandates. At the University of Juba, for example, our mandate has been captured by our mission statement as commitment to: “national economic empowerment and social transformation through provision of quality education, pursuit of relevant research, promotion of innovation, facilitation of technology transfer, revival of national cultural heritage, protection of environment, and service to community.”


In our Vision 2030, we aim “… to become a dynamic regional and world-class centre of excellence in teaching, research, innovation, and service to community...” Our driving motto is “Inventing the Future, Transforming Society.” Our strategic goals include serving communities, assisting in the nation’s integration into global knowledge-based economy, and facilitation of transfer of technology and know-how to key economic sectors.


Every single word in our mission, vision, motto, and strategic goals is for a reason – it underpins our actions and guides every project we undertake. To be brutally truthful, our world is replete with institutions whose missions and visions lie dormant on their walls, hanged at their gates and buildings entrances to inspire visitors, while bearing no measurable relevance to the kind of projects and programmes these institutions embark on. It is a bit like telling family and friends that you are travelling to Yambio, when in fact you are onboard a Nairobi-bound flight. It is absurd! Certainly, we at the University of Juba strive, within our means, to implement strategies and pursue goals that are closely aligned to our stated mission and guiding vision.


It is worth noting that “innovation” appears in our mission statement and Vision 2030. Although not explicitly mentioned in any of our strategic goals, innovation is the vehicle through which our university aims to serve communities, help the country to compete in the global marketplace, and facilitate transfer of technology to key economic sectors such as energy, communications, agriculture, and manufacturing. Innovation, according to Clayton Christensen (2019), is “…the change in process by which an organisation transforms labour, capital, materials, and information into products and services of greater value.”


In prosperous societies, economic agents called entrepreneurs, employ innovation to introduce new products and services. These innovations create new startup companies (as most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are), open up markets, create jobs, and boost incomes for thousands of people and thereby enhance prosperity across the board.  An example of innovation that created markets is automobiles. Another markets-creating-innovation is the penetration of mobile phones globally, which not only allowed us to communicate and transfer money, but also have put computers and TV sets in our pockets. These innovations have created millions of jobs locally and globally in research and development, design, manufacturing, distribution, training, advertising, sales, insurance, maintenance, and service. Nevertheless, there are millions of smaller, albeit less known, innovations that have served local communities. Here, the entrepreneurs were able to solve particular problems facing their immediate communities. Many innovations have grown into global brands such as Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and the like. They all started small.  


Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential tools in spurring economic growth and lifting millions out of poverty globally, as they provide the means for exploiting available local or national resources to their full potential in such a way as to improve livelihoods and raise the quality of life for millions. Far from being job seekers, entrepreneurs are job creators.


While many individuals have natural entrepreneurial gift, entrepreneurship can be cultivated. Through training, individuals can acquire new lenses through which to view old problems and spot new opportunities, understand financial and people management, know how to build great teams, able to raise finances, and equipped to take calculated risks.


In August 2021, the University of Juba launched a new master’s programme- a multidisciplinary Master of Science in Entrepreneurship. About 70 students have enrolled. All of them have a bachelor degree. They come from different educational backgrounds; some from social sciences (mainly business and economics) and others from science-based specializations (agricultural science and natural resources and veterinary medicine). Our goal is to produce postgraduates with knowledge and skills that enable them to conceive business ideas in areas of their interest and start their own micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).


This, for us, is a giant step towards living up to our stated mission and vision.


*This article was first published in Juvarsity Newsletter in September 2021

Saturday, August 28, 2021

On the Commitment to Educational Excellence


By John A. Akec


The pursuit of excellence is the stepping stone to building great organisations. Think of Apple Inc., Samsung, Harvard, Oxford, Mayo Clinic in United States, McDonald’s, Walt Disneyland, Makerere University, and countless other famous brands. These organisational brands share one thing in common – unabashed commitment to excellence in the products and services they provide to their clients. Excellence, for them, serves as a core value, and as strategy for dominating their markets.


From the founding of our University in 1975 to this very day, our emblem has carried two words: “excellence and relevance.” From 2014, however, we have adopted a new line tag: “inventing the future and transforming society” in order to drive University of Juba’s Vision 2030. Some of our stakeholders have expressed concerns about this shift in emphasis. And a few voices went as far as decrying the abandonment of the University’s historical motto. Such concerns, though legitimate, are quite unfounded. And here is why.


For start, our mission statement describes our University as a “centre of excellence”. I quote: "The University of Juba is a leading educational centre of excellence that is committed to national economic empowerment and social transformation through provision of quality education...”


Moreover, the University of Juba’s Vision 2030 aims to transform our institution into “a dynamic regional and world-class centre of excellence in teaching, research, innovation, and service to community by 2030.” Our core values celebrate “scholarship, excellence, creativity, and initiative.”


We must pause and ask ourselves why “excellence” was such a critical organisational value to our founding fathers. Plenty of reasons.


Tom Peters in In Search for Excellence (1982), and lately, Excellence Dividend (2018), describes excellence as “a state of mind, a way of being”. That we recognize excellence when we see it. That excellence can be practiced by everyone, everywhere, anytime; such as in saying “thank you” to a colleague for a small service received, in listening more attentively to workmates or customers, in shouldering responsibility and apologizing for our mistakes, in lending a hand to colleagues who have fallen behind with their tasks, in over-preparing for a three-minute presentation, and in taking great care when writing a short email.


Tom Peters contends that excellence is not necessarily a long-term goal that we strive for, or hope to arrive at some “sunny glorious day” in future, “but a way of life, a way of behaving with care and respect toward our fellow human beings, day in and day out, moment in and moment out.” And that these human beings could be work colleagues, customers, students, alumni or members of the communities we serve.


A good case study for excellence in healthcare provision has been described by Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman in Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic (2008). Mayo Clinic is a top not-for-profit global healthcare provider founded in 1864 in Rochester, Minnesota, by Dr. William Mayo. Mayo Clinic is ranked in several independent evaluations and reports as “Medical Mecca”, as “one of best 100 companies to work for”, a place to go to when “really sick”. And by its patients and co-patients as an “important national institution”, and as a symbol of “what is best in American medicine.”


One might wonder how the Mayo Clinic achieved these stellar world-class results. Easy. As explained by Dr. William Mayo himself in 1975, it is a result of pursuit of ideal of service and non-profit, sincere care for welfare of each single patient, interest of each staff member in professional development of every other member, willingness to change in response to the changing needs of society, efforts to maintain excellence in everything they do; delivering the service with absolute integrity at all time (Berry and Seltman, 2008).


Finally, Jim Collins’ masterpiece, Good to Great (2001), describes great organisations. He contends that it is not enough to be “good”, but that, on the contrary, “good is the enemy of the great.” He then argued in order to be outstanding organisations, companies must be led by humble leaders, resolved to recruit highly talented professionals, do well in their core business, have a culture of discipline, apply technology to improve the delivery of their core business, and commit to maintaining high standards over long periods of time. 


Hence, excellence is more than fine words engraved on an institutional emblem or hanged on our offices’ walls. Excellence, in practice, speaks louder.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Embodying the “Wisconsin Idea:” The University as the Arm of the State


 By John A. Akec

Universities, all over the globe, are entrusted with three missions: education, research, and service to society. The University of Juba is no exception.

Endowed with hundreds of highly qualified faculty, and given its unique location in the nation’s capital city, the University of Juba is obliged to serve society by constructively engaging policymakers and legislature and drafting policies, laws, and regulations that can help propel the country forward. It is nothing peculiar to us. Throughout the ages, ideas that enable societies to progress have been passed around and shared among nations, and adapted to local settings.

Traditionally, universities were known for exercising an ‘indirect’ or ‘silent’ influence on society through discoveries that others could be put to good uses and serve practical ends. Universities also teach the young to attain inquiring minds. These two functions belong to research and education missions of university.  The Germans were the first to establish universities that are wholly dedicated to research. The British gave importance to training of undergraduate students and developing their moral and intellectual capacity.

The third function of university was added by the Americans who were the first to recognise the importance of higher education in providing knowledge and human capital required by a rapidly developing society. This was facilitated by the signing of Morrill Act by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. The Act required every state in the US to allocate land to at least one university or one college of higher education whose mandate was “to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanical promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in several pursuits and professions in life.”

Consequently, the American ‘land-grant’ universities and colleges provided extension services that included field agriculture stations that advised farmers on seeds and the latest farming technologies. Their law schools helped develop new commercial codes. Their economic professors advised the state governments draft labour and social legislation. Evening programmes allowed hundreds of thousands of the working American adults to learn new subjects, and train for new careers in industry. Their schools of education developed model curricula for high schools in suburbs and poor parts of the cities. Charles R Van Hise, President of the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1903 to 1918, opined that “the borders of the campus are boundaries of the state”. That became the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ that defined the American land-grant university. In the like manner, Kerr Clark, the former President and Chancellor of the University of California (Berkley), described American university as ‘the arm of the state’. In fact, for state universities in the US, there was no intellectual service that was “too undignified for them to perform.”

On our part, we at the University of Juba are fully committed to the ‘Wisconsin’s Idea’, and are striving to advance our third mission of serving the society beside education and research. We want to provide evidence that informs policy design. Top of our agenda is an ongoing initiative to advise the Ministry of Public Service and the Ministry of Finance on the best approaches and strategies to be followed in order to adjust the pay structure and improve the wages and salaries of public sector employees in the Republic of South Sudan. We will advise the Ministry of Finance on reforms of the pension system and social security. We will work with the Ministry of Health in order to reform and enhance the quality and provision our healthcare system. We will collaborate with Juba City Council to improve waste management and improve the traffic flow around the city as well as land management and urban planning. We are getting involved in the enrollment of vocational training throughout the country. We will collaborate with National Revenue Authority to identify new sources of taxes. We will advise the National Communication Authority on improvements in telecommunication and ICT services. We will assist the Ministry of Defence in mounting necessary security reforms.

In short, the University of Juba is more than willing to act as ‘the arm of state’, ready to assist in tackling every economic and social ill facing our country. Our academics will be playing the role of ‘voluntary civil servants’.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Thoughts on Service Leadership


 By John A. Akec

On the 15th of May 2021, the deans and directors of the University of Juba gathered at a magnificent conference hall in Palm Africa Hotel in Juba to celebrate the Annual Excellence Awards for 2020. It was the first time ever such an occasion has been mounted by the University of Juba. In that ceremony, certificates of “excellence in service” were awarded to sixteen members of the University of Juba’s staff for “exceptional works of service rendered in 2020” to the University of Juba community or the general public. My speech at that occasion was centered around the subject of ‘service leadership’. And in order to spread this message wider, I would like to share my thoughts on this subject in this monthly article. 

To begin, Ronald Heiftez and Marty Linsky of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government have defined leadership in their book (Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Harvard Business School Press, 2003) as a process of going forward and risking dying. They highlighted how opportunities for leadership arise in everyday life, such as when a neighbor watches a one-time nice kid down their street, getting astray during his or her teenage years after the mother had passed on, and mobilizes the community in the neighborhood to provide support to the father and the family so as to change the path of the teenager for the better.

Each day, argued Heiftez and Linsky, brings opportunities “to raise important questions, speak to higher values, and surface unresolved conflicts.” And that each one of us has opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people around us. That true leadership often involves exceeding our own authority in order to tackle the challenge at hand. That communities, organisations, and the entire societies need people from all walks of life to take up challenges within their own reach and not complain or think that someone else will come down from above and do it for them.  

In most cultures, it was always thought that ‘leaders’ are born and standout as distinct characters by their good looks, their extraordinary abilities, their attributes, and their skills. Not true. Leadership can be practiced by everyone who accepts to take up responsibility within his or her community. It can also be nurtured, learned, and developed. We often hear about different types of leadership. They include: transformational leadership, charismatic leadership, servant leadership, religious leadership, service leadership.

However, service leadership is the focus of this article. It gained prominence when the structure of global economy began to shift from industrial mode that was based on manufacturing, to postindustrial mode in which service industries such as banking, insurance, hospitality, health, and education) take an increasing share of nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  For example, in 2014, the share of service sector was 79% of United States’ GDP, 78% in United Kingdom, 79% in France, and 71% in Japan.

This structural transformation of global economy has been accompanied by changes in organizational structure, human capital, and the required leadership attributes. And unlike the the industrial economies where major decisions were taken by the top managers, service economies give plenty of opportunities for individuals to play leadership roles at every level of the organisation, including at at the very bottom of organizational hierarchy. And unlike the concentrated authoritarian leadership for which industrial economies were known, service economy dictates the distribution and decentralization of authority throughout the organization.

One more thing, in service economy such as higher education or hospitality industry, the goods are intangible. And that production method involves the cooperation between the producer (a school registrar or library assistant) and the consumer (the student). The quality of service depends on the quality of interaction between the producer and the consumer. The term for this production method is called co-creation. Bad interaction leads to poor quality service. Good interaction leads to high quality service. 

What’s more, there are no fixed rules or clear standard operating procedures in production of service. The situation can change dramatically, depending on who you are dealing with at the front desk. This requires service leaders to be competent in their job, have integrity and honesty to tell the truth, and a have disposition to care for their clients.

Strive to be a good service leader in your space.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

What Matters Most is What you Can do for the Society, not What the Society can do for you


By John A. Akec


Speech at the 23rd Convocation of the University of Juba, Saturday 19th June, 2021





Your Excellency, General Salva Kiir Mayardit

President of the Republic of South Sudan, and Chancellor of the University of Juba;

Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology;

Graduands and Parents;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

All protocols observed


On behalf of the Administration, Staff, and Students of the University of Juba, it is my privilege to warmly welcome you all to today’s graduation ceremony. I want give very special thanks to H.E. General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, and Chancellor of the University of Juba for honouring us with his presence. And allow me your Excellency, to say that the Graduands of Class 2021, like those before them, are blessed by your presence. We are humbled and grateful for your unwavering support. We do not take this for granted. And on behalf of the University of Juba Community and my own behalf,  I appeal to your Excellency to feel at home, amongst your staff, your guests, graduands, and parents of our graduands.

I would like to acknowledge and thank Hon. Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology for his leadership and for honouring us with his presence. I want to thank Hon. Dr. Manase Lomole Waya , the Chairman of University of Juba Council, for his unwavering support to the University Administration, and for his wise counsel.

Your Excellency the Chancellor,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:


Today, approximately 1,800 graduands (304 Females, and 1452 males) will be awarded diplomas and degrees as follows: about 685 Diplomas, 751 Bachelor degrees; 41 Postgraduate Diplomas; 256 Master degrees; and 16 PhD degrees.


The distribution of  undergraduate graduates and postgraduates across schools and institutes is as follows: School of Community Studies and Rural Development (341), School of Business and Management (347), School of Social and Economic Studies (362), School of Medicine (39), School of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (47), School of Law (78), School of Education (97), School of Computer Science and Information Technology (83), School of Arts and Humanities (85), School of Arts, Music, and Drama (4), School of Public Service (44 postgraduates), and Institute for Peace, Development, and Security Studies (11 postgraduate degrees).


I want to say congratulations to the graduands of Class 2021 for this great achievement. I also want to thank the parents for material and moral support to your sons and daughters over many years.

Most importantly, I want to appeal to you, our graduands, to go out and serve in the community with diligence and integrity. To apply what you have learned in tackling developmental challenges facing our society. Be active citizens who are endowed with humanistic values, empathy, respect, tolerance, and to be conscious about your responsibility towards society. Know that it matters most what you can do to serve society, than what the society can do to serve you. You must be life-long learners, ready to listen to other forms and domains of knowledge; and be humble enough to open up to new learning that will allow you to succeed in various careers in the world of work. You must think globally while acting locally.

I would like to encourage parents, especially those who have businesses to support universities, not just the University of Juba, financially. Such support will go a long way in improving the quality of learning at our universities for the benefit of current and future generations of students, and the society at large.


Your Excellency the Chancellor,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:


As a University, we see our Mission in three areas: Education, Research, and Service to Community.

On Education Front (First Mission):

On this 23rd Convocation in the history of the University of Juba, we are indeed proud to report that since its inception in 1975, the University has witnessed milestone strides reflected in the growth of its faculty, number of schools, academic programs and student population. As I mentioned earlier, today we are passing out a total of 1800 graduates made up of 1452 males and 304 females.

Currently, despite the myriad of challenges facing us, the University boasts nearly 24,000 undergraduate and more than 2,000 postgraduate students. We now host 17 Undergraduate Schools some of which also offer postgraduate programs, a graduate College, and Kuajok Community College. At the postgraduate level, we have the School of Public Service (SPS) and the Institute of Peace, Development and Security Studies (IDPSS). In addition, we host the National Transformation Leadership Institute (NTLI). We will admit students to School of Medical Laboratory Sciences and School of Petroleum and Minerals when we start a new academic year in October or November 2021. This will bring our programs to a total of 152 programs of which undergraduate programs are 88, and postgraduate to 64, up from 6 postgraduate programs in march 2014 when this administration was installed.

However, Your Excellency the Chancellor, we do have acute challenges with laboratories and lecture hall spaces to the extent that students at times stand up in classes due to overcrowding. Our attempts to face up to these numerous challenges have always been thwarted by limited financial resources. As the leading public university in the country, the people of South Sudan are looking to us for leadership in the provision of quality higher education. We are expected to do more with less. But this philosophy obviously does have limits, and we want to bring that to your kind attention.


On Research Front (Second Mission):

Not much is happening because of funding challenges. Few research funds that come through tend to address problems that are seen by donors as priority but not necessarily national priority. And they are very limited in scope. This is an area for national attention. Some research happens in our postgraduate programs, but is also constrained by resources.  Without good research going on at the University of Juba, it will not be possible for us to claim a world class status.


On the Service Front (Third Mission):

Increasingly, we in the academia, civil society, and the general public are concerned about the spiralling inflation, the rocketing prices of essential commodities in the market in South Sudan for the last six years and which has led to a high cost of living; while the salaries have remained static for a great majority of public sector employees over the same period.

This situation has caused economic hardships as stagnant wages in the public sector continue to push the employee below the poverty line. The affected public sector employees include civil servants, government ministers, members of legislative houses, judges, doctors and nurses, academics and teachers, and members of the organised forces and law enforcement agencies.

For example, a private policeman currently receives a monthly salary of SSP 1,500. This cannot buy a single meal for a family. A civil servant currently receives a salary of SSP 5,000; a member of Parliament salary does not exceed SSP 11,000; and a government minister receives SSP 20,000 per month. And hence, we are left wondering how can policemen, civil servants, members of parliament, and government ministers in South Sudan survive or cater to their families' needs, including feeding, transport, accommodation, schooling, and medical treatment.


Another concern: civil servants are working past retirement age while young graduates with energy are unemployed because of luck of pensions. In addition, medical treatment is now a challenge to all South Sudanese families because of spiralling cost of private medical treatment; and the absence of medical insurance cover against illness which many countries have, which allows citizens from all social ranks and incomes to have free access to medical care at the point of need. One British statesman once noted: “it is very bad to be sick when you are poor.” This is no longer the case in Britain after the Second World War when National Health Service was established and is now paid for by tax by British people themselves. It is no longer bad to be sick when poor in that country. Here we have none of that kind of solution.


Left unchecked, the situation could lead to social and political unrest in not too distant future.


As our contribution to finding home-grown solutions to economic challenges facing our nation, we as a University want to provide evidence-based solutions that inform economic policy design in the aforementioned areas of concern. Hence, the University of Juba and a number of think-tanks have been working since January 2021 on a framework for reviewing the salaries and wages of employees of public sector.


This framework has identified the challenges that exist in the current government’s proposed public wage structure, and provides alternative and better approaches to reviewing public sector wages, as well as propose new public sector wages and salaries that are comparable in terms of purchasing power parity to the region.

The draft report is ready for sharing with the Ministry of Public Service, and the Economic Cluster this coming Wednesday. Afterwards, the report will be shared widely and we hope it will be adopted by our government. The Universities have benefited from the adjustment of the pay in 2019. We are using our experience to benefit all the sectors of our economy. Again, Your Excellency, your weight and support are going to be critical in the adoption of the new proposal, as it was in the payment of salaries for staff of universities in our country.


Key findings of our report include:

1-    The share of public sector wage bill as percentage of government revenue has declined from 51% in 2011, to 13% in 2020. In contrast, Kenyan wage bill has remained constant at 18% of government revenue since 2011.

2-    Currently, the security sector takes 72% of public wage bill. This starves other sectors of the government and undermine civil service.

3-    South Sudan has one of largest army and security sector personnel headcount on the African continent. It comes second to Nigeria. This is disproportionate to the population size of South Sudan (12 million), compared to Nigeria (200 million). Moreover, members of our security sector are paid very low salaries. It may be the lowest on the continent. This does not improve the security of the country at all.

4-    Large numbers of public sector employees are unclassified staff

5-    There is need to widen tax bases and improve tax administration capacity to collect enough taxes if we are to be able to improve public revenue and meet the cost of proposed salary structure. We have proposed a few areas for widening our tax base.

Furthermore, the University of Juba has submitted a Concept Note on how to improve the delivery of health care at Juba Teaching Hospital and across South Sudan to Honourable Minister of Health, and we are still waiting for a response.

Right now, Your Excellency the Chancellor, the service at Juba Teaching Hospital is very poor. As one co-patient described the Outpatient Department to me recently: “everyone is jumbled up together, blood covers the floor, and washrooms are all locked. It is a place of great suffering and anguish.” Your Excellency, something must be done about healthcare in our country and the University of Juba is more than ready to assist devise a new health policy.


Standing with national government to tackle social and economic challenges is not a responsibility that is only unique to the University of Juba. Far from it. It is a universal principle that universities frequently assist their national governments to solve complex social and economic challenges. And we, as University of Juba, cannot stand at the margin and watch our government struggle, and our citizens suffer without us offering ourselves to assist.


Your Excellency the Chancellor,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:


Before closing, I would like to thank Prof. Mairi John Blackings, the Academic Registrar, and the Chair of Graduation Ceremony and his very able team for organizing this Graduation Ceremony for six years in a row, except in 2020 because of Covid-19 pandemic, under challenging economic conditions the country is going through. I want to thank the Deans of our Schools, and Directors of Institutes and specialized Centres, Departmental Heads, and Examination officers for making it possible to graduate this batch of 2019.


Very special thanks to our administrative, technical, support, and security staff for keeping the University of Juba working and afloat, every day, 365 days a year. I want thank President’s Protocol team; the SSBC crew, Management and the Ministry of Information for the live coverage. I also thank the Military Band, and everyone who contributed to making this occasion so great.


Last but not least, I want to thank our Masters of Ceremonies today. They are: Dr. Moses Hassen Ayat Tiel, Interim Dean of School of Pharmacy; Dr. Rose Costa Mapuor, Dean School of Medicine; and Dr. Al-Faki Chol Lual, the Dean of School of Law.

I also want to appreciate the staff in my office: My Executive Director Bek, the Deputy Executive Director Nyanwel, Assistant Executive Director Suzan; Public Relations Germano Taban; my Secretary Margaret Wani, and assistant Ayeida, and the support staff Aida, Aliet, and Nora, my Driver Taban Isaac, and the rest for their hard work and support to me while preparing for this occasion.

Thank you for listening.