Khartoum, Feb 5, 2005
Currently there are around 1,200-1,500 people
of Indian origin, mostly Gujaratis, residing here.
Around 800 are settled in Omdurman, around 250 in
Kasala and about 300 in Port Sudan.
Dominated by Gujarati settlers, many of whom have
even taken local citizenship, Indians are one of the
most trusted communities in Sudan, a country that
is becoming one of India's top investment destinations.
Lured by the opportunities opening up in this north
African country on the threshold of peace after decades
of civil war, an increasing number of Indians have
started arriving here.
They are mostly involved in service and project
contracts in the wake of India's exploration major
Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) acquiring stakes
in three blocks through its overseas subsidiary.
"The Indian community is one of the most trusted
by the Sudanese. In fact, marriages between second
generation Indians and locals is not uncommon,"
said Deepak Gupta, general manager of GAPCO (Sudan)
Ltd, one of the companies owned by a non-resident
Born and educated in Bangalore, Gupta has since settled
down in Tanzania and is one of the close-knit Indian
groups found in African countries.
"We are a close-knit community where every festival,
be it Diwali, Eid or Onam, is celebrated with great
gusto in the traditional manner with everyone participating,"
said Gupta, who is currently based in Khartoum with
"We frequently organise potluck dinners and
have lots of fun playing bingo or arranging gatherings
to celebrate various occasions. We even organise musical
and film show evenings," Gupta told a visiting
"In addition, around 500-700 expatriates are
working here. Every year around 100-150 sugar professionals
come here to work in Kenana Sugar Factory, one
of the world's largest integrated sugar units,"
said Ashok Kumar, Indian ambassador to Sudan.
Situated at the point where the Blue and the White
Nile merge, Khartoum is a city under transformation
with small old buildings making way for high-rise
structures, villas and shopping malls.
The Afra Mall with its sprawling department store,
branded outlets, bowling alley, five theatres and
several other facilities is a favourite hangout for
not just the affluent locals but also Indians.
As Sudan takes a cue from the shopping haven in Dubai,
a large number of retail outlets are coming up along
with around 50 gold jewellery outlets.
Companies from countries like the United Arab
Emirates (UAE), South Korea, Malaysia and China
have either established themselves here or are in
the process of doing so to grab a larger slice of
industrial, infrastructure, construction and trading
"Increasingly skilled and semi-skilled workers
from India are being brought here as opportunity beckons
with new industrial and trading activities taking
shape. These people have no problems blending into
the close-knit community," said Kumar.
Having faced the problem of repatriating a large
number of unskilled farm labour dumped in Sudan, the
ambassador is not keen on any unskilled labour from
India. On the other hand, he sees good opportunity
for Indian companies to arrive early to get a chunk
Abdul Khalique, commercial counsellor at the Indian
embassy, cited several examples of companies like
Dodsal Group, Larsen and Toubro and Hyderabad-based
PTC Ltd that are on the scene undertaking projects
like pipeline construction, road and other infrastructure
construction and trading activity.
"What is being appreciated here is the capacity
of Indians to work as a team with Chinese, Malaysian
and (South) Korean colleagues. In fact, the experience
of working with an international team at Heglig, where
ONGC Videsh holds 25 percent stake in the Greater
Nile exploration project is seen as an encouraging
example," said Khalique.
There is enough scope for business in Sudan, but
lack of funds is hampering taking up projects, said
"Sudan is keen to associate with Indian companies
but payments remain a major stumbling block,"
Many Indian companies, including ONGC, are overcoming
this problem by bringing in money, manpower and skills
to undertake several mega projects. IANS