South Sudan Ecological (File Image)
South Sudan Ecological (File Image)

By: Mr. Bek Dhuorjang Chol

1. Basic Facts about South Sudan

The country gained its independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, making it the newest nation in the world.The country is divided into 10 states and three administrative areas. Geographically, it lies on: 30○ 501and 12○ 251 N, 23○ 20’W and 36○ 58’E of the Equator line.

  • Land/Area: 644,329 km2 this is approximately one-third of old Sudan, or 8.5% of Africa, or 1.9% of the globe.
  • Population; 8.26 million (2008 census).
  • Population density: 12 to 13 persons per kilometer square.
  • Age composition: 51% below 18, 72% below 30.
  • Rural/urban composition: 73% rural, 27% urban.
  • Literacy rate is 27% of the adult population. Gender: 56% female, 44% male.
  • Capital city: Juba. Other major cities: Wau, Malakal, Aweil, Yei, Yambio, Bor, Bentiu, Kuajok, Torit, Rumbek, Nimule etc.
  • People: Nilotic, Para-Nilotics, and Sudanic groups.
  • Official language: English, Lingua franca: Juba (colloquial) Arabic
  • Main language: Bari, Acholi, Anyua, Dinka ( Jieng), Nuer (Naath), Jur, Balanda, Zande, Murlei, Chollo (Shilluk), Toposa, Boya, Didinga, Madi, etc.
  • Religions: Christianity, Islam and traditional African religions.
  • System of governance: Presidential (two terms limit).
  • Economic system: Free Enterprise
  • Climate: mean annual rainfall of 1400 mm and mean temperature of 33○ C.
  • Number of ecological zones: 7 (Green belt, central hills, Ironstone Plateau, flood plains, mountain slopes and hills, semi-Arid south east plains, and central rain-lands.
  • GDP per capita: US $0.480
  • Main economic activities: crop production, livestock keeping, tourism, fishing/fish farming, trade, lumbering, oil production, quarrying, provision of services, etc.


2. Definition and Scope

Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood. The definitions of specific age that constitute youth vary from one country to another but youth generally refers to a time of life that is neither childhood or adulthood.

An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as an immature individual could exist at all ages. The age in which a person is considered as “youth” and thus eligible for special treatment under the law and throughout the society varies around the world. For example:

  • The United Nations General Assembly considers “Youth” as those persons between the age of 15 and 24 years. This definition has been adopted by the World Bank, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality and the Tanzanian National Youth Development Policy (1996).
  • The Commonwealth Youth Programme takes young people as those aged 15-29.
  • The Danish Youth Council defined Youth as any member of the society between the ages of 15-34.
  • The South Sudan National Youth Union, Second Convention (2019) defined youth as a person between the ages of 18 to 35 years.

From the above definitions, it can be concluded that young people are a major force in the contemporary world and are often at the front of global, social, economic and political developments. Young people are part of the solution to the difficulties developing democracies face. The paper looked at the role of youth in sports and development and the challenges facing them.

On the other hand, sports refers to an activity involving physical exertion, and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or other for entertainment or professional or business purposes. Another activity commonly associated with youth and sports is what is called a game. A game is a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength or luck.

Although sports are widely considered as the main youth activity, this view only minimizes the role of the youth in the society. Youth contributions in any country are diverse. These range from military/security, economic, social, political and religious spheres. There is no single human activity that one can ever imagine without the involvement and participation of the young people. However, in this section, the researcher examined sports and its contributions to youth development.

The two activities often called together as games and sports are divided into in-door and out-door.

The In-door games and sporting activities include but not limited to: table tennis, scrabble, draughts, playing cards, chess, dominoes, etc. these mainly involve the exertion of skill with less physical energy.

The Out-door games and sporting activities include: football, golf, volley-ball, lawn tennis, cricket, rugby, basketball, athletics (including pole-vault, discus, long and high jump), karate, boxing, acrobatic, body-building, weight-lifting, etc. in other countries, there are even animals sports organized and managed by humans for entertainment. Others require the physical involvement of a man as a team-mate with certain animals in competition. These include horse-racing, bull-dance, dog, cat, tortoise and goat races. Some of the sports activities such as elephant-riding, horse-riding, goat-racing, bull-dances, swimming, wrestling, skiing, rafting and kayaking have turned into a tourist activity rather than a sporting one. A lot of innovations have emerged over the years in the field of sports making the subject matter very wide but with a lot of economic significance.


3. Significance of Sports to the Youth

Sporting activities and games are important in youth development and inadvertently economic development for the following reasons:

  1. Enable youth to learn physical skills
  2. Improve body fitness
  3. Create a sense of belonging to a social group
  4. Acquiring sport skills for positive leisure
  5. Lead to growth and maturation
  6. Develop self-concept or self-worthiness
  7. Increase youth social competences.
  8. Lead to moral development
  9. Prevent youth from indulging in criminal and antisocial behaviours
  10. Allow the youth to derive economic benefits.


4. Youth Development

The terms: “youth, adolescent, teenager, kid, and young person” are interchangeable, often meaning the same thing but occasionally differentiated. The word ‘youth’ also identifies a particular mind-set of attitude, i.e. being youthful. Scholars have reached some conclusion that the current youth development policy initiative in South Sudan and in the globe demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.

Youth development has captured the attention and concern of every government and most international organizations due to the social, economic, cultural and psychological benefits of youth activities. The United Nations declared August 12 as “International Youth Day”. Religious groups and most governments also have specific annual youth days in addition to the United Nations declaration.


5. Youth and Sports Development in South Sudan

The Ministry of Youth and Sports in the Republic of South Sudan is expected to recognize the importance of the role of youth in the development. Youth in South Sudan form a big percentage of the total population accounts to around 66%.

Over the last three decades, youth in South Sudan have mainly been engaged in wars, in defense of their land and in the quest for freedom rather than in other socio-economic activities such as education, sports and development.

The signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018 ushered in a new dawn of hope for the youth of South Sudan to be revitalized from the trauma of wars and conflicts.

The ministry of youth and sports is expected to oversee the youth-driven process of national reconciliation and healing through a budgetary provision of funds for funding various youth programmes. Work closely with the South Sudan National Youth Union and other youth-led institutions to translate and consolidate the revitalized peace agreement into actions and promote the welfare of youth particularly those with disabilities. To rebuild the livelihoods of the youth affected and traumatized by the 2013-2016 conflict.


6. Youth and Sports Facilities

Young people have for the first time been represented in one ministry as stipulated in the revitalized peace agreement. Since independence to date, some volunteers’ youth have been representing their young nation in friendly and international sports competitions. The culture in most south Sudanese communities encourage sporting activities such as wrestling (Mundari, Dinka Bor, Dinka Yirol etc.,.) to mention just a few, football, dancing, swimming, basketball, volley-ball, base-ball, boxing, weight-lifting, etc. Some of these activities are being practiced with the encouragement and support from the government and other private sectors. Although South Sudan is still lagging behind in most of the above mentioned sports, it is worth mentioning that some of the world’s sports champions have reached those heights with the contribution of some South Sudanese in diaspora. The potentials, especially for basketball, football, athletics, volley-ball, base-ball and other field events like javelin and pole-vault are very high given our endowment in cultural orientations, bodily build-up and stamina.

Most of the sporting facilities such as stadiums, courts and fields have been destroyed by the long wars and political conflicts in the country. During the long civil war in Sudan, schools used to run sports tournaments including inter-school competitions and physical education was part of the curriculum. But after the independence of South Sudan, most of these activities are not taking place just because physical training is not emphasized in the curriculum. The football stadium in Juba which is currently under renovation was used as a sporting centre for only football other sporting related activities were totally neglected such as Olympics. Wau, Malakal, Yambio and Rumbek stadiums are abandoned either due to conflict or not a priority. Currently (Before Covid-19) most youth play in school grounds and in empty space between residential areas or areas gazetted as Emergency Evacuation Areas (EEAs). These are virtually empty spaces without the necessary facilities. There are a handful of basket-ball courts in the country despite the high potentials of raising world champions from this beloved country of tall and dark people described in the Bible.

There are a few youth centres in the country such as Nimra Talata Youth centre in Juba, or Youth Centre in Wau etc. offering a handful of youth facilities such as playground such as Dr. Biar’s play in Juba ground near Supiri secondary, courts such as Manut Bol court in the university of Juba built by Luol Deng Foundation, conference halls, recreational facilities and other games and sports. Some of these facilities are private owned.

The youth in South Sudan are divided mainly into two. These are school-going youth and non-school going youth. The first hold their activities mainly within the school curriculum activities and on-school premises and are guided by regulations of those schools/universities. They have student unions, a body of students which have turned from a student’s guide into a political force, the case of public universities.
The second group are organized through religious bodies, civil society organizations, political parties and youth unions (national, state and county) and associations of various types.


7. Challenges

Among the challenges which continued hindering the growth and development of youth in South Sudan include but not limited to the following:

  1. Youth illiteracy
  2. Youth unemployment
  3. Lack of youth development policy and programmes
  4. Absence of a database of unemployed youth and their skills profile
  5. Alarming spread of HIV/AIDS
  6. Teenage pregnancies
  7. Limited or unequal access to educational facilities and low rate of enrolment
  8. Limited participation in the development projects
  9. High rate of crimes with the involvement of youth
  10. Lack of leadership skills
  11. Lack of skills and training (Vocational)
  12. Unavailability or inaccessibility of financial support for skills development
  13. Shortage of schools for youth with disabilities
  14. Continued accessibility of youth exchange programmes
  15. The continuous high drop-out of youth from schools

From the above, it can be summarized that: South Sudan as the world’s newest nation and country born out of a protracted conflict, was found to have the characteristics of its most young people being poor with high rate of unemployed, rampant insecurity, inter-and intra-communal fighting, limited engagement of youth in culture, arts and sports, lack of youth engagement in a productive work and lack of access to basic social services as education and health etc. hence, there is a need for the youth to come together under one umbrella as the country lacks Youth Development Policy.

Many youths grew up and survived in a hostile environment without protection due to the long civil war and conflict in the country. There is a large number of youth across the country that are unable to find work. There are many reasons for the high unemployment rate among them lack of adequate education and other relevant job skills. Other reasons are rooted in job-related cultural values e.g. selling water, cleaning the land, doing construction works, cleaning buildings and outdoor areas, and working in hotels and restaurants, etc. invites scornful and humiliating criticism from peers, relatives, and elders. Culturally, if a girl works in a restaurant, she is considered spoiled that is no longer a virgin. Waitresses working at night are prone to abuse by men. Such work impacts on a female youth’s dowry price and marriage prospects. Young men seeking wives often resort to criminal activity, commonly known as cattle raiding to pay the dowry when no other options exist. Dowry is connected to early marriage but it is equally related to lifestyle and the power realized by owning more cows than a neighbour.


8. The Expected Policy Framework to be adopted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports

Anticipated Vision: to produce healthy, skilled, employable and employed youth with strong support, resources pursuing and sustainable development.

Anticipated Mission: to mainstream physical education in schools and encourage the youth to become interested in sports and youth related activities.

8.1 Youth Development Principles

  1. Access to youth facilities
  2. Determination and exertion
  3. Sacrifice
  4. Excellence
  5. Voluntarism
  6. Participation
  7. Democracy
  8. Unity of purpose

8.2 Objectives

  1. Ensure development of skills of the unemployed and unemployable youth through an integrated skills development programme.
  2. Increase the active participation of youth in the national and local economy through a sustainable youth economic empowerment programme.
  3. Ensure a decrease in the incidence of HIV/AIDS among the youth through a participatory, multi-faceted, integrated and well-resourced intensive HIV/AIDS programme.
  4. Mainstreaming youth development policy into programmes through annual planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of youth programmes.
  5. Develop the lives of the youth by encouraging them to engage in the areas of economy, culture, policies, responsible parenthood, education and health.
  6. Mobilize youth to appreciate, promote and defend the right of youth according to the transitional constitution of South Sudan 2011 amended (2015).
  7. Ensure coordination amongst the various sectors, institutions and organizations in the implementation of youth plans in order to control the negative effects or influences accruing from economic, social, political and cultural processes.


9. Approaches to be used as a way forward

  1. The ministry of youth and sports should create and establish a National Youth Development Centre (NYDC) in each of the states and administrative areas in order to promote youth skills development programmes.
  2. Encourage all sectors of the economy to incorporate youth economic empowerment programmes in their plans.
  3. Implement an aggressive campaign programme against HIV/AIDS focusing on behavioural change as an approach in all the states and administrative areas and establishment of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centers all over the country.
  4. Establishment of Youth Training Centre (YTCs) in all the states and administrative areas and encourage Youth Camp activities to orient young people on their economic, social, political and cultural roles in the society.
  5. Involvement of young people in various community-based national building activities.
  6. Provision of special attention to education, training, employment, health, environment, sports, recreation and leisure, art and culture, science and technology etc.
  7. Develop an appropriate monitoring and evaluation programmes for the youth.
  8. Establish a National Council of Sports with branches in all the states and administrative areas.
  9. Registering unregistered sporting federations (associations) in international bodies and encouraging exchange visits and exchange ideas.
  10. Construction of at least one modern stadium in each state and administrative area to facilitate hosting of international sporting activities in the country which will generate general income.
  11. Improve the status of the existing stadiums, courts and playgrounds in all the states and administrative areas.
  12. Avail funding for youth activities at all levels.
  13. Encourage active participation of the private sector to invest in youth activities such as sports.
  14. Ensure the full implementation of the above mentioned strategies for the benefits of youth.



From the above approaches, change of attitude and actions among the youth is required for peace and peaceful co-existence. Establishment of inter and intra-state leagues, school and college sports competitions at the states, county, Payam and Boma levels will be helpful in minimizing idleness and insecurity issues.

Establishment of youth culture, arts, and sports centers are important with the provision of incentives to sports persons such as leaders, coaches, referees, administrators, outstanding sportsmen, and women, etc. catering for youth with special needs.

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. Volunteerism is a process of going beyond oneself and one’s needs and wants to think in society, beyond one’s immediate family and kin group. Coordination of youth participation in development activities such as adult functional literacy, planting trees, hygiene and sanitation, and peacebuilding initiatives barely happen. It is important to emphasize voluntary service as one of the potential mechanisms for youth to acquire knowledge and skills from the community and contribute to peace and socio-economic development.


NB: The Author is a Lecturer in the Department of Public Administration and Head Department of Statistic and Publication, Academic Affairs Registry, University of Juba. He can be reached though: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or WhatsApp +211919449146.

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