If you asked 10 people what they thought was the most important fundamental item to a successful country you would probably come up with a number of different answers involving security, food, etc. Well in fact I did, and their answers were as you would imagine; water availability, food security, quality education, rule of law, transparency and anti-corruption, and jobs. For South Sudan though, it may be roads.
I realize that without clean water and enough food a country will never be successful. Without good medical care and an economy that benefits all people, a country will not be successful. For South Sudan, issues with water availability, food security, jobs, rule of law, and transparency can all be improved if not solved with the building of quality roads throughout the country.
Security in South Sudan is currently almost impossible because of the vast and un-drivable landscape throughout the country. In the rainy season, the few roads that exist are impassable. Even in the dry season, those roads take hours to traverse. When instability in an area presents itself, the military takes hours to respond. To find the perpetrators is almost impossible once they flee, as there are no roads to follow them.
Government transparency is clearly an issue. It seems like Kiir suspends ministers and offers political amnesty for returned funds every month now. Military atrocities seem to be common place. Better and more abundant roads allow independent and media agencies to verify and report on conflict areas. Better roads allow all of South Sudan to keep better tabs on government programs and advocate for improvements.
Medical, clean water, and food security issues are even more obviously improved with road construction. Medical teams have a hard time reaching villages 15 kilometers outside major towns, much less critically injured persons fleeing from violence. More wells can be dug, crops planted, and food transported.
Oh, and then if South Sudan makes the right contract decision, new roads will create new jobs and improve skills.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered for many decades with poverty, insecurity, transparency and many other issues that South Sudan currently faces. The DRC is almost three times the size of South Sudan and covered in large mountains and equatorial rainforests. Factors that make road construction extremely difficult. South Sudan should take notice of its neighbor, the opportunity that a rather manageable landscape affords it, and make roads its number one priority.