South Sudanese Woman Digs Back and Rebuilds Her Livelihood

Rose Awit Akol Deng runs two lucrative restaurants, one in Awiel of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and another in Kuacjok of Warrap States. Not the four star, five star or whatever state of the art restaurants but Awit has a very lucrative business on her hands.
When you want something done very well, do it yourself. Awit serving for a customer. Photo by Deng Athian

By Deng Athian

Rose Awit Akol Deng runs two lucrative restaurants, one in Awiel of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and another in Kuacjok of Warrap States.

Not the four star, five star or whatever state of the art restaurants but Awit has a very lucrative business on her hands.

Having curved her way through from a small roadside tea stall in Awiel back in 2012, the 47-year-old mother of 5 now enjoys millions of South Sudanese Pounds monthly.

Awit was a refugee in Sudan during the liberation war and returned in 2009 to vote in the referendum for secession. She had to kill off tea selling in Khartoum before return, a business which provided little money but loads of entrepreneurial experiences.

 With no source of income in Awiel, Awit started selling tea by the roadside with a 200 South Sudanese Pounds saving (just under $100 at the then rate), and items she borrowed.

 “The items, I borrowed from a Darfur man who was working in Aweil main market. He did not give me money but he gave me 3 kilograms of sugar, 4 packets of milk powder and some few packets of tea leaves,” Awit told The Dawn in an interview in Awiel.

“With the little which was 200SSP, I bought some items to make the tea shop or Rakuba. After 3 weeks, I paid back the Darfurian man.”

Awit, (R) unveils some of her employs in this photo taken by Deng Athian

In Awit, there is that focused person who is navigating through a difficult economic situation to rise on the financial platform and develop her family.

Her business idea was sharpened by family needs and the experience in Sudan.

“I was a tea maker when I was in Sudan. I decided to resume the work here in Aweil just for my children to get food and other needs,” Awit said.

Her tea business picked up and within a month, Awit started selling mandazi (bread), rice and porridge.

A year later, “in 2013 in April, I started cooking food and I expanded into a restaurant,” she said.

Awit’s plans are now ballooning. “I want to establish another restaurant in Kuajok but I first want my daughter to finish her studies to come and help me in management,” she said. The Daughter is a third-year student at Cavendish University in neighboring Uganda.

“I also have plans to do vegetable farming to help me in getting vegetables for my restaurants. Buying them is costly so when my daughter finishes, she will come and help me in setting up another restaurant and introducing a vegetable farm.”

Awit’s story is of typical success in a country struggling with an economic roil after years of crisis. High prices and erosion of purchasing power has made it very difficult for people to make ends meet.

The political leaders in South Sudan have come to terms and are focused on ending conflict and turning the narrative to peace and security, yet negotiating economic development is taking a much slower pace.

The government has an open economic policy however which does not dictate on financial prosperity of individuals. Such economic policies opens space for people like Awit, to expand personal activities that help shore the country’s economy and speeds up holistic development.

China is an illustration of the use of policies that invited the private sector into economic growth. It has surpassed expectations in its rapid development and its worth mentioning as a case to take for a country with a poor economic development like South Sudan.

In July, China released a detailed policy aimed at building a “bigger, better and stronger” private sector.

Xinhua, the official State news agency said the private sector has evolved into a fundamental component of China’s economic system, playing a vital role in driving sustainable and robust economic growth.

Since 1978, the private sector played an increasingly important role and contributed to employment, tax revenue, economic growth and the cultivation of the market system, according to a paper “Private Sector Development in the People’s Republic of China” authored by Toshiki Kanamori and Zhijun Zhao.

It said the number of private enterprises increased from 90,000 in 1989 to 3 million in 2003, an increase of more than 30 times, and that of individual businesses during the same period almost doubled from 12.47 million to 23.53 million.

“For the more than 25-year long transition period from a centrally planned economy to a more market oriented economy, a number of private entrepreneurs and private enterprises have emerged and are now playing a critical role for the economic development of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” the paper said.

Such development also come with commitment from individuals, and who stick to overcoming of challenges along the way.

Awit too had to negotiate challenges, as narrated to The Dawn.

High cost of rent and robbery of her business items were some of the challenges she had to contend with from the beginning.

“Another challenge was lack of place to keep my things for making tea because my home is far from the market and carrying items everyday was not good for me. I did not want to make my children also come to the market with me because they were young.”

“I was also struggling to make myself a good grass thatched house for my children and there was no money at all. I had to struggle a lot and finally I managed to build a house made of grass thatch but it was expensive.”

Awit employs 15 people in her hotels, monthly paying out 450,000 SSP in salaries and remains with a huge profit. They include cooks, cleaners, servers and a security guard.

“I have customers who pay me on monthly basis because of the nature of the work they are doing and on a daily basis, when the market is good, I get 400,000 SSP in both restaurants,” she said.  

“All my children are studying and they get good medication. I cannot say that I get this or that amount, but I can say there is money.”

Her current big challenges though are high prices in the market and the crisis in Sudan which affected imports of cheap goods from the northern country. And she believes she will wad through.

“My advice to everyone,” Awit said, “don’t wait to first get more to start a business.”

“Start with the little you have and do not get too much loan. Develop the little you have.”

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