After Sudan's Referendum: A Former "Lost Boy" Turns Entrepreneur

As the country heals from decades of civil war, recent voting-related violence and a fresh referendum that may change Sudan forever, Nico Ajak Bior gives Fast Company his take on the country's startup potential.

Sudan peace sign

On January 9th, Southern Sudanese voted on whether to become a separate, independent nation. While the results of that vote are still up in the air (though early indications reveal a majority voted for secession from the North), one fearless entrepreneur, Nico Ajak Bior, already has his sights set on a new entrepreneurial country of South Sudan, focusing first on an ailing, insecure agricultural industry.

"My idea is to start vegetable farming through the use of greenhouses in Juba and my hometown of Bior in Jonglei state," Bior tells Fast Company. "This was inspired by the lack of fresh vegetables in my country—currently Southern Sudan imports all the vegetables and fruit from neighbouring countries and this makes it expensive for the local population to get them. I'm determined to make vegetables available throughout most parts of Sudan in the next few years."

Bior, 28, is originally from South Sudan. He's currently a University student in Kenya studying Mass Communications in Nairobi. His path out of Sudan was treacherous; Bior was one of 27,000 "Lost boys of Sudan" that were either orphaned or displaced due to raging civil wars.

Last year he participated in a fellow Lost Boy's startup incubator program, New Scholars, and has since been nurturing his vision of kick-starting a local farming and vegetable industry in South Sudan, as decades of civil war destroyed what industry thrived prior to the war. And now that the referendum has finally taken place, his vision is set to become reality.

"I'm a candidate this year for the chair of Southern Sudanese Students in Kenya which I will not vie for, as I will be going to Sudan to start farming," Bior tells Fast Company.

Vegetable farming may not sound like a particularly innovative endeavor, but much like the case of war-torn Northern Uganda, South Sudan's farming industry was all but decimated amidst harsh violence and poverty, making Sudan dependent on imported produce.

"My country has been at war with herself for two decades leaving agriculture in total tatters," says Bior. "The government is struggling to feed the citizens. My new venture, dubbed 'Dynamic Africa Farms,' aims to produce vegetables through both ordinary farming methods and through greenhouses, especially for tomatoes. Currently Southern Sudan gets its fruits and vegetables from Uganda and Kenya, making it very expensive and sometimes not fresh. I intend to do most of the farming along the Nile River which passes through my home town of Bor."

So as South Sudan is poised for independence and as the new country finds its footing, it looks as though at least one celebrated son is focusing on the industry at the heart of most places—self-reliance in agriculture and food production.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

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