Africa's Cowboy Capitalists

2013, Society  -  38 min Leave a Comment
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Americans put a lot of stake in how they're all about the frontier and that they have the frontier spirit. All of that is kind of in the history books now. But there is a group of individuals in America, and they still have that innate sense of going somewhere where it's a bit rough and making a go of it. And that's kind of what Ian Cox is doing. He was a small-time hustler operating out of Rumbek in Sudan. For about three or four years, he had an electronics shop in the middle of South Sudan - a place called Rumbek, probably the shittiest place in the world to do business.

His friend Tim had a Land Cruiser in Juba that he needed to sell. And with his mailing list, Cox advertised it and sold it. And then from there, one of the biggest armed security companies in South Sudan contacted him to provide 11 new Land Cruisers for a project they were just starting, which he did. And then it's flowed on from there.

After decades of civil war between the mostly Arab Muslim north and mostly black Christian south, in 2005, the Bush administration successfully brokered an agreement ending the major conflict and creating separation and autonomy for the south. This led to a referendum in 2010 and independence for South Sudan in 2011. Despite its new status as a nation, South Sudan is still considered by some to be part of Sudan, which has long been on an embargo list for state-sponsored terrorism.

This embargo makes it nearly impossible to import anything that could be considered military equipment, even those subcontracting to the UN. This is where Ian's years of experience navigating the murky political and social waters of Africa comes into play. He's been contracted to move a convoy of military grade vehicles from South Africa to South Sudan across seven countries in 30 days.