JUBA, Sudan, April 9 (Reuters) by Ed Cropley – The only thing that’s cheap in southern Sudan is life.
One of the world’s poorest regions, where four out of five people are illiterate and one in five children fails to make it to their fifth birthday, the south’s economy has been turned on its head since the end of a 22-year civil war in 2005.
A flood of foreign aid workers and more than $2 billion a year in oil revenues under a peace deal with the central government in Khartoum has transformed the south into one of the most expensive corners of Africa.
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Nobody knows how many people live in the city, although some say its population has trebled in the last five years under the weight of tens of thousands Kenyans and Ugandans out to make a quick buck.
“Earning $100 is difficult in Kenya. Here it’s easy,” said Amos Njay, a Nairobi taxi driver hoping a year in Juba will set him up in a trucking business.
Africans are not the only ones with an eye on the cash.
Foreign aid workers, holed up behind barbed-wire fences and armed guards in semi-permanent tented camps on the banks of the Nile, boast of earning $10,000 a month tax-free and with all their living expenses taken care of.
“You know what they say: in places like this you only get missionaries, mercenaries and misfits. Me? Sure, I’m just here for the money,” said one U.S. aid contractor knocking back a cold beer in a bar on the banks of the Nile.
Other drinkers ranged from dapper pro-democracy activists from the U.S. International Republican Institute to former soldiers whose lives are spent treading in the heels of conflict across the globe, cleaning up mines and unexploded bombs.
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