Sudan is the largest country on the continent -- about one-fourth the size of the United States.
Like Alaska, it has vast stretches of territory without roads or basic services -- and a lot of oil.
Sudan is divided by religious and ethnic lines, with Arabs and Islam in the north, and the indigenous people of the south, who are predominately Christian or hold on to their traditional spirituality.
Alaska’s connection to the country is in the south, where doctors have tackled the challenge of building a clinic in a roadless region of southern Sudan with the same tenacity they bring to delivering healthcare in Rural Alaska.
Dr. Jack Hickel is one of the volunteers who fights to ease the suffering. He believes the long-term fix is not medical, but political -- to solve the paradox of poverty in a country that's rich with oil.
"Nothing trickles down to these people at all. In fact, people in many of these countries become poorer, because of the oil," Hickel said.
Dr. Hickel's experiences in Sudan inspired his father, the late Gov. Walter Hickel, to write "Crisis in the Commons: The Alaska Solution," which promotes Alaska's "owner-state" concept, and the responsibility of Alaskans to export the idea.
The former governor said in a 2009 interview that the idea needed to be taken to the world, because the world is owned in common.
The owner-state concept has its roots in Alaska's constitution, which requires the state's resources to be used for the maximum benefit of the people.
There's also the statehood compact, which carved out 103 million acres of land for the state to hold in trust for the people.
From this has sprung other institutions, like the Permanent Fund Dividend program, which shares some of the state's oil wealth with the people.
Most important to the owner-state concept, is that Alaska's oil revenue goes to pay for our roads and schools.
"Still in southern Sudan, less than 1 percent of the children ever make it through primary school. Less than 1 percent," Hickel said.
Sudan is Africa's third-largest producer of oil. Most of its oil fields are in the south with its refineries in the north. Chinese and Malaysian companies are the major producers in the south.
A news story by Al Jazeera looked at how the Sudanese government, based in the north, has exploited the south. It said land has been stolen and soiled by industry, and the profits used to buy arms for oppression.
Its president, Omar al-Bashir, has been charged with war crimes over genocide in Darfur.
Those are just a few of the reasons why the people in the south took a vote whether to separate from the north and create a new country.
The vote has just finished and it may be a few weeks before the numbers are tallied, but it's expected to pass, and it’s a transition the south has been preparing for some time.
Last year Hickel and Malcolm Roberts, a longtime aide for the late Gov. Hickel, were invited to Sudan to talk about Alaska's owner-state model.