- Foundations for a new community -

More housing, education and health services are needed to cater for the massive migration into the capital

A periodic drought late last year set off another wave of people trekking from the rural areas to urban centres. This is a common scenario in Sudan, although the cause is not always the same. Thousands of people are pouring into the capital, Khartoum. Sharaf Eldin Ibrahim Bannaga, the state minister for housing, construction and public services, has called upon the government "to control the situation before it is too late". "The urbanisation of the country is increasing at a rapid rate," he says. "One of my main worries, and that of the people managing the urban centres, is the protection of the environment."

About 1,000 people arrive in Khartoum from the rural areas every day, either looking for work or as a result of crop failure and drought, says Mr Bannaga. The city's population has doubled to around six million in the past 17 years. One of the biggest tasks facing the government is coping with the rising sanitation and health problems, as well as providing education and additional housing for the new influx of people. The ministry has set up several enterprises, including a construction firm and several factories producing aluminium and plastics. "We are heading for real democracy and real participation of the community.

Sudan is large and it is not easy to hold it together. But by adopting new policies that will bring the people together, we can hold all parts of Sudan together," suggests Mr Bannaga. Helping to meet the rising demand for housing is the Danfodio Commercial and Contracting Company. Created in 1981, it is now the largest construction firm in the country and has since built residential complexes, new offices, hotels, hospitals, mosques, government and industrial sites, and infrastructure projects. Danfodio has been involved in work on Sudan's first oil and gas development to turn the country into an exporter of crude. It worked on the pumping stations along the 1,600km pipeline from the oilfields to the oil terminal.

Danfodio has more than 20 companies, from subsidiaries to associate firms. Their activities include vehicle imports, trans-port, engineering, grain stores and travel. Turnover was around $150 million last year. General manager Abdul Wahab Mohamed Osman says: "We are now working in Chad with an Italian partner building a bridge, and in Ethiopia we are working on oil transport. "We are also building a road through Ethiopia to divert most of the country's imports through Port Sudan. When this road is complete, the west and north of Ethiopia will be nearer to Port Sudan than Djibouti or Masawa." More recently, the company signed a joint venture with a Malaysian firm to build a new headquarters for the Bank of Sudan.

Danfodio has also started a trading enterprise in Malaysia. The company plays an important social role, says Mr Osman. "We are trying to serve our country by making Danfodio very big. All profits made by the company are given to charity, such as hospitals, schools and for relief work both inside and outside Sudan. "We wish to make big profits to max-imise charity for the poor. We are diversifying our projects and our companies to work in all fields to generate that money." Mr Osman says that many Sudanese are returning to the country as conditions improve. "There are many universities here but they only teach theory. We need foreign experience by getting companies to come here through joint ventures."

The population of the capital has doubled to about six million

OSMAN 'All profits made by Danfodio are given to charity' He is enthusiastic about prospects for the future. There are numerous firms - from China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Korea among other countries - who are now investing in major projects in Sudan. Mr Osman says British companies will find it easier than most to work in the country because English is widely spoken and there are traditional links between the two countries. "The older generation here knows the value of the British way of conducting business," he adds.

Minister of social planning Qutbi al-Mahdi Ahmed says: "Sudan is BANNAGA 'Urbanisation is increasing at a rapid rate'getting ready to present itself as a good place for investment and economic cooperation." The minister says the government is committed to a policy of poverty reduction to kick-start the poorer urban and rural areas and give support to small enterprises. "The traditional society is coming under pressure and all the old communities are collapsing," he adds. "But there is more education and exposure to the outside world, and there are more skilled people."