Sudan shopping mall fights the odds post-secession
By Ulf Laessing
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Shop assistants display expensive Italian baby clothes in a vast showroom, waiters in white shirts serve latte in trendy cafes and an army of cleaners mops the floors - Khartoum's new al-Waha mall is a world away from the rest of Sudan.
Owners of the mall, with its shiny elevators and air-conditioning, promise a shopping revolution in a city where battered cars and donkey carts make their way down bumpy roads lined with street vendors.
There's just one problem: the place is almost empty.
"I haven't had a single customer in the past 10 days," said Kamal el-Din, the manager of a Chinese furniture shop on the lower ground floor.
"Five more months like this and we will be closing," he told Reuters in his large glass office, tallying losses on a calculator.
Riddled with ethnic conflict and poverty and hit by U.S. sanctions over its human rights record, Sudan has never been an obvious place to do business.
But ambitious plans backed by Gulf Arab investors were drawn up when the economy started to accelerate, driven by petro-dollars, after the government signed a peace deal with southern rebels in 2005.
New hotels such as the Saudi-built Rotana and expensive stores such as German sports retailers Adidas and Puma set up shop in Khartoum, a rundown city that had seen little development since independence from Britain in 1956. Continued...