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Juba - A view from our expert author


Aerial view of Juba by Frontpage, ShutterstockAerial view of Juba © Frontpage, Shutterstock

Please note There has been a serious deterioration in security in South Sudan since these pages were compiled, and some of the practical information here will now be out of date. In particular, many areas are currently not safe to travel. You are advised to contact your embassy and local agents prior to travelling. 

Juba is an international city. In just a decade it has grown from a shell-damaged garrison town to a buzzing capital and is one of the 20 most expensive cities on earth. Unsealed roads swarm with ‘Daz white’ Land Cruisers, and the skyline and face of the streets is changing as shanty towns and refugee camps are being cleared to make way for brand new office blocks and hotels. Everything is in a state of flux. The fast pace of such changes is putting unprecedented pressure on Juba’s limited infrastructure and although foreign investment and expertise is coming, it will still be several years before road building, sanitation and power supplies reach the requisite levels. In the meantime, even Juba’s wealthiest expat inhabitants are in the unenviable position of paying US$150 or more for a night in a (albeit upmarket) tent, running their laptops off diesel-powered generators, and spending hours each day in traffic, their vehicles up to their axles in mud, especially during the rainy season (April–October).

Once a shell-damaged battle-worn town, the skyline of this animated capital has changed from that of shanty towns to shiny office blocks, making it one of the 20 most expensive cities on the planet.

It is a land of opportunity, no doubt, but one that requires a great deal of stoicism on the part of the workforce. The mix of foreign embassy and NGO staff, engineers and businessmen has given the city a cosmopolitan feel. In any bar or restaurant you can engage in lively debate about anything from the rights and wrongs of foreign aid, to the Chinese takeover of Africa, and you’ll never be short of places to eat and drink, providing, of course, that you can afford it. Traditional tourist sites in the city are few and far between, but you do not come to Juba to see ancient buildings or museums. Instead, you come to work, to make money or to make a difference (and occasionally both at once). Visit Juba to see a city and a country in a period of rapid transition, being catapulted into the 21st century but without a clearly-defined vision or plan as to exactly what that means. Whether you intend to participate or to observe, it is a fascinating place to be.

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