Donors and investors have pledged $3.55 billion for the development of resource-rich but neglected east Sudan, officials said on Thursday at the end of a two-day conference in Kuwait City.
"Total pledges made by participants in the east Sudan donors and investors’ forum came at $3.55 billion," said Mustafa Osman Ismail, an advisor to the Sudanese president and head of the organising committee.
He however did not clarify if the $1.6 billion pledged by the Khartoum government was included in the total.
Hosts Kuwait topped donors with $500 million while Iran pledged $200 million and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank pledged $250 million.
Ismail said the forum, the first of its kind, discussed 177 projects requiring some $4.2 billion of pledges.
A total of 149 projects needing $2.2 billion were aimed at fighting poverty and for infrastructure development, while 28 projects were geared for development of agriculture, industry and others at a cost of two billion dollars.
The forum was attended by representatives from 42 countries, 30 international and regional organisations like the Islamic Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
It was also attended by 78 non-governmental organisations and 84 private sector companies, Ismail said.
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah said he will travel to Sudan soon to sign an $80 million project, the first venture in east Sudan arising from the forum.
Main projects to be offered for investors and donors included a major dam at a cost of $600 million, three cement factories for $450 million and roads and power projects at a cost of 430 million dollars.
An area the size of Italy, east Sudan is blessed with huge gold, oil and gas resources as well as vast uncultivated arable land.
And yet there is rampant poverty among the region's five million inhabitants, most of who live on less than two dollars a day, and child mortality and malnutrition rates run high.
"The region –east Sudan- is in dire need of investment in infrastructure, human capital and preservation of peace through new development," Claudio Caldarone, the UNDP country director for Sudan told AFP.
"There are also innumerable natural resources ... (including) oil, gas, gold, marble and there is also... uncultivated arable land," Caldarone said.
East Sudan is divided into the three states of Kassala, Al-Qadarif and Red Sea.
According to UNDP figures, 58 per cent of the population in the Red Sea state and 50 per cent of those in Al-Qadarif live below the national poverty line, surviving on $50 per person a month.