Peter Tibber

Ambassador to Colombia

Part of UK in Sudan

2nd December 2012

A visit to Port Sudan

I visited Port Sudan for a few days last week.  A 10 hour car journey that began several hours before dawn finally drew to an end as we weaved through the Red Sea hills into a Port Sudan decked out in bunting for the opening of the 6th Red Sea Festival for Tourism and Marketing and caught our first sight of the sea.

The festival was one reason for my visit. We are participating in the exhibition with a display of photos about HM The Queen’s State Visit to Sudan in 1965. It’s part of our celebration of her 60th jubilee  this year. It seemed particularly appropriate to bring the display to Port Sudan because there is an even earlier royal connection here: King George V (the Queen’s grandfather) visited near-by Suakin in 1912.

I attended the opening ceremonies of both the festival and the exhibition. They were great fun: Lots of music and dancing and a genuine sense of enjoyment and participation from the huge numbers of ordinary people who clearly wanted to be part of it. We will be contributing to the music with the appearance of two British bands later in the festival.

The festival serves a serious purpose too. It’s part of the Wali’s strategy of building the profile of Port Sudan and growing its tourism industry. Tourism can bring a huge boost to the local economy, creating jobs and prosperity. We know this from our own experience in the UK where the tourism industry brings around £16bn to the UK including £3bn to the Government and employs 2.6million people. Port Sudan has some very obvious tourism potential, which I had the good fortune to sample with a few hours off snorkelling up the coast from Port Sudan. There’s good local cuisine (lovely fish, and coffee) and the natural hospitality of the people of the city, which I experienced at first hand. The Sudanese have responded. Local tourism is growing. But attracting foreign tourists is harder work.  Local business people told me that they needed more international airlinks, development of the tourism infrastructure and a more conducive environment for foreign tourists. They want to draw on UK expertise.

Tourism is not the only important area of economic activity in Port Sudan. The port itself, which I had the opportunity to visit, generates a lot of jobs both directly and through related activity: logistics, freight handling and so on. I look forward to greater UK-Sudanese partnership in developing the Port.  I also briefly visited Port Sudan’s visionary investment park- a huge expanse of land linked up to power and telecoms and aiming to attract 500 new investors. Only 50 so far, but its early days.

All this makes sense, not just for Port Sudan but for Sudan as a whole. The loss of oil revenues from what is now South Sudan is one of the drivers behind economic diversification in the Red Sea State, as it is throughout Sudan. Sudan has huge potential in for example agriculture and mining (in both of which British companies are engaged or interested) and it may be that, if used wisely, the short term pain of the loss of oil will bring long term gain in the shape of a more diversified, job-generating economy.

Turning from the big picture to the small; we support economic activity at the grass roots too, providing micro finance to help women in Suakin to start or develop small business. The sums involved are small, sometimes only a few hundred Sudanese Pounds, but they have made it possible for the women involved to start a bakery business, open a restaurant, sell local fish, trade goods from Khartoum and so on. So far there has not been a single default on a loan.

I did a number of others things in Port Sudan too. The Governor was kind enough to receive me and we had a good conversation about areas of potential collaboration. I met the Chief of Police, who  has been championing work we support to develop community policing in Red Sea State (as we do in Khartoum). And I had a taste of Beja culture, ending my visit dancing with some Beja “warriors” shaking my sword in the air: unscheduled but great fun!

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6 comments on “A visit to Port Sudan

  1. Thank you so much Mr. Ambassador for the coverage of your visit to Port Sudan. Despite the fact that I am a Sudanese national, it is the first time I came to know a lot about the only functioning port in my country. You did an excellent job for releasing this very tangible information about Port Sudan. I think you have set a good example for a successful ambassadors who takes the initiatives that will help in closing the cultural gaps between peoples.

  2. I am glad to see that you are not confining yourself to Khartoum(as many ambassdors do)
    British interest in mining trade and tourism shows a serious effort to help and not to uphold any misguided sanctions. You probably know that trade with Sudan as well as support in community policing and training has come under fire in the UK by Aegis Trust(an Israeli lobby front organisation) whose employee Dr M. Kapila addressed the houses of Parliament (8 March 12) calling for reduced diplomatic links with the Sudan.Through its media contacts it managed to get an article published in the Guardian(26 September 12) distorting the aims of UK help in police training.In reality UK support for democratic transformation is welcomed and appreciated in the Sudan as a commitment arising from the CPA and the UKs role as broker and garantor of implementation.
    There are two other well funded Israeli lobby front organisations that are dedicated to demonising the Sudan and poisoning its relations with the UK, namely Waging Peace and Article 1.
    Port Sudan is a symbol of tolerance in the Sudan.Amateur theatre groups used to perform plays to collect donations for the mosque and repeat the performance to collect donations for the church.West African pilgrims en route to Mecca have often srtuck root in Port Sudan and were eventually Sudanised and enriched the area.
    You have mentioned the visit HM the Queen’s grandfather.It would be inappropriate of me to remind you of another historical event linked to Port Sudan and its people ( referred to in R. Kipling’s poem Fuzzy Wuzzy) .Thanks again for not being a prisoner of your air-conditioned office in Khartoum.

  3. Thank you allot Dr – Mr Ambassador for visiting Suakin Womens groups, i convey to you thanks and appreciation from the all members in the Association( friend of fisheries women development Association) more thank to you and UK Embassy team specially your wife for participation and praise. womens rely more support as usually.

  4. Thank you so much Mr. Ambassador for your visit to our city port Sudan ,and your participation in our exhibition for the first time and we wish to participate in the next festival .Such action deserve more appreciation so we do appreciate your supporting and encouraging for us to achieve the highest point in the success .Mr. Ambassador you had visit port Sudan for a short period, but it is sufficient to assess the necessity of the English language in port Sudan, and it is one of the significant reason for the success of our festival , Mr. Ambassador we do ask you as a port Sudanese citizens to support us to let the majority of our citizens speak English as well as British. And our aim is to establish a British centre for teaching English supported by the British embassy directly by providing the whole facilities . As a British ambassador in Sudan it is a great responsibility because the relation between Sudan and UK it is not a new relationship it start a long time ago and by that time the majority of Sudanese were speak British English as Britons , but right now in port Sudan the situation is nearly to collapse so please Mr. ambassador think about.

  5. Port Sudan. I think you have set a good example for a successful ambassadors who takes the initiatives that will help in closing the cultural gaps between peoples.

  6. Port Sudan. I think you have set a good example for a successful ambassadors who takes the initiatives that will help in closing the cultural gaps between peoples.
    i thankso nice

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About Peter Tibber

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was…

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was a member of the Senior Management Team of UKTI. He was ambassador to Sudan August 2011 to August 2015.

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