Posted By Edmund Downie
JUBA - China has started a welder training course to help South Sudanese master knowledge and techniques relevant to the petroleum industry in which the newly-born nation has a large potential.In the wake of South Sudan's vote this February to break away from Sudan, China has been working aggressively with both countries to maintain access to their oil reserves, most notably through Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's visit to Beijing in late June. Before the split, Sudan exported more than half of its daily oil output to China and was China's third-largest trading partner in Africa. Now, though South Sudan contains 75 percent of the two countries' combined oil reserves, it continues to rely on Sudan for the bulk of the processing and transportation infrastructure, including a crucial port on the Red Sea.
A total of 30 trainees selected from about 800 applicants are under the vocational training, the first of its kind in South Sudan, and are expected to be backbone workers in the petroleum industry in the future.
The establishment of a program to train welders suggests that China would like to reduce South Sudan's dependency on Sudanese infrastructure. It's a sensible goal. Tensions over oil revenues figure to be a major sticking point in Sudan-South Sudan relations; the countries have yet to establish a plan to divide revenues in an industry that generates 90 percent of the north's hard currency and 98 percent of the south's revenues. Meanwhile, the invasion of the border region of Abyei by forces loyal to Bashir has highlighted the threat of a major conflict between the two countries. There are certainly more stable countries from which to import your oil, but, with domestic demand at near-record levels, China may not have much choice.