Sudan has an agricultural economy, employing 80% of the workforce, holding considerable potential for irrigated production. Cotton and sesame account for almost a quarter each of export earnings. The livestock sector is sizable as well. However, droughts have led to recent famines, and civil war has led to the virtual collapse of the economy. The slave trade is alive and prospering in Sudan, operating at about $50 a head in 1999. It is estimated that in the south as many as one million civilians have died and more than five million have been uprooted because of civil war. Economic development is also hindered by a poor transportation system that increases the cost of transporting goods over long distances; Sudan is the largest country in Africa.
Sudan's failure to service its international debt, together with a poor human rights record, led, in 1993, to the World Bank suspending financing of 15 development projects, and to the IMF suspending Sudan's voting rights in the organization (they were restored in 2000). Sudan was the world's largest debtor to the IMF in 2003, with arrears of over $1 billion. Total foreign debt exceeds $24 billion, and high inflation has put consumer goods beyond the reach of most. In 2003, the civil war and Sudan's international isolation continued to inhibit growth in the nonagricultural sectors, although progress on the peace process was being made with strong backing from the international community. Petroleum discoveries in the south-central region of Sudan and their export in 1999 raised hopes of economic salvation; but until the political situation stabilizes, prospects are dim for significant improvement in the economy. Real economic growth was expected to reach 5.6% in 2003 and 5.4% in 2004, largely due to increased oil production, enhanced light industry, and an expansion of export processing zones.