South Sudan Pound To Launch Next Week : Planet Money South Sudan, the world's newest country, will soon have its own currency.
NPR logo The World's Newest Currency

The World's Newest Currency

South Sudan, the world's newest country, will soon have its own currency. Here's a look:

South Sudan pounds
Government of South Sudan

That's John Garang, the late rebel leader who's a national hero in South Sudan.

The money is being printed in Germany, flown in today, and will go into circulation next week, according to the AP. It will start out at a value equal to the Sudan pound, but will eventually shift to a managed float. (In other words, its value relative to other currencies will fluctuate, but those fluctuations will be managed by the government.)

This week's Economist has a nice snapshot of the commercial scene in Juba, the country's capital:

Bars on the steamy banks of the White Nile are filled with Kenyan traders, Ethiopian waiters, Chinese engineers, American security contractors, Eritrean restaurateurs and Ugandan motorbike drivers. Expatriate South Sudanese are also coming home in droves after decades of civil war. The most prominent are the "Cuban Jubans", a group long ago sent to Havana for education; they run the loudest bar in town. Outside its doors, Hummers and other pricey cars bounce along yet-to-be-paved roads.

The embryonic nation is severely handicapped by a lack of infrastructure. Tarmac is almost non-existent. The information minister, Barnaba Marial, says, "We never had roads. We are starting from below zero." Sending a shipping container from a port in neighbouring Kenya to landlocked Juba costs almost $10,000. "They want to tax you at every roadblock," says Charles Opolot, a Ugandan fruit trader.

Accommodation is also expensive and limited; many visitors sleep in furnished shipping containers at a cost of $150 a night. As 85% of the population is illiterate, businesses struggle to find capable local employees.