Infrastructure is key to any development effort. Without proper infrastructure such as transportation, telecommunications and energy, any country’s development will be severely impaired.
Well conscious of this fact, Djibouti has been striving for several years now to modernize its infrastructure. However, the country does not intend to contend itself with modernization—it also strives to become a regional leader in the industry of logistics and transportation. In order to achieve this ambition, Djibouti’s development emphasizes on synergies between sea, land and air transportation, and intends to fully benefit from its geostrategic location.
Djibouti had only a single port before 1999. It now has three, and four more under construction, making the port industry the pillar of its economy. Located on the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, the busiest sea route in the world, with 90 ships per day, Djibouti aspires to become the destination of choice for cargo movements in the region.
In addition to the historical multipurpose Port of Djibouti SA—which processed over 4.2 million tons of bulk and general cargo as well as 70.710 TEU in 2014—two other ports are located in Doraleh: an oil terminal (completed in 2006), and a container terminal (completed in 2009).
The former, overseen by Horizon Djibouti Terminals Limited (HDTL), delivers over 3 million cubic meters of fuel a year to the region and is currently undergoing expansion to increase its capacity by an expected a 30 percent. The latter is ranked the fifth busiest port in Africa and projects to double the capacity of the container terminal will be undertaken in 2016 with the ambition to make it the port with the most traffic in the continent with a total capacity of 3 million containers a year. It is already Africa’s most productive port with a per crane rate of 34 moves per hour, contrasting with the African average of 20 moves per (the world average is between 25 and 35 moves per hour). The Doraleh Container Terminal is also one of the few thirty ports worldwide with a depth of 18 meters for container ships.
Djibouti has begun works on four other ports. The Damerjog Livestock Port, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, will be a livestock port with an anticipated capacity of 10 million heads of livestock per year, and will export livestock from Ethiopia and South Sudan to the Gulf countries and North Africa. Djibouti is also the first African country to have a quarantine center officially certified by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The Port of Tadjourah is an ore port particularly intended for the export of Ethiopian potash. The Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA) signed an agreement with Allana Potash Corporation. The new facility will be used primarily to export the potassium from Dallol in northern Ethiopia. The first phase of the construction will be operational on March 2016. The second phase will be fully complete in 2018, with a doubled capacity to reach 8 million tons a year.
The Port of Ghoubet, near Tadjourah and the salt lake Assal, will specialize in salt and gypsum exports, particularly to Asia with an expected 6 million tons a year. Lake Assal is the world’s largest undeveloped salt reserve and is the second most saline body of water on Earth after Don Juan Pond in Antarctica.
Last but not least, the construction of a new multipurpose port in Doraleh (DMP) began in 2013 to relieve the historical Port of Djibouti SA as the pace of trade between Africa and the rest of the world rises. This Doraleh Multipurpose Port will be connected to Ethiopia by road and rail, with capabilities to process 22 ships at the same time.
In addition, three other projects are planned. A liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Damerjog will export gas from Ethiopia’s Ogaden region primarily to China. The liquefaction plant will produce 10 million cubic meters of LNG a year. In the same area a Crude Oil Terminal will be built for the export of crude oil from Melut, in the north of South Sudan. The third project is the construction of a ship repair and dry-docks to provide maintenance to 150 ships of up to 50,000 tons each year—the closest ship repair facility being in the Gulf countries.
Djibouti is home to several airports, one of them being an international one. Because Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport is located within the city and cannot be expanded, two new international airports began construction in January 2015, one on the 19th and the other a day later.
The first airport is the Al Haj Hassan Gouled Aptidon International Airport & Cargo Village, located in Bicidley. Once operational, it is expected to serve 1.5 million passengers and 100,000 tons of air cargo a year by 2018. The Bicidley area is located about 25 kilometers south-west of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. Forty-six square kilometers were reserved for long-term expansion, and the airfield geometry was planned so that the airport can accommodate all modern aircraft, including larger jet airliners such as the gigantic Airbus A380.
The second airport is the Al Haj Ahmed Dini Ahmed International Airport. It is located in the northernmost region of Djibouti, Obock, and more precisely on the Ras Siyan peninsula. It is next to the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, where the Archipelago of the Seven Brothers is located. The location of the Al Haj Ahmed Dini Ahmed International Airport was decided with the aim of dedicating this airport to tourism activities. As such, it is expected to handle 350,000 passengers during its first year of operation in 2016, and over 760,400 passengers per year by 2021. It will also be equipped with a 3-kilometre long, 60-metre wide runaway, allowing the airport to accommodate a wide range of aircraft.
In May 2015, the government of Djibouti decided to resume activities of the nation’s flag carrier, Created in 1962, Air Djibouti was one of the first African airlines, and was in operation until 2002. The airline, which currently owns five aircraft, is now scheduled to resume its cargo freight operations, with plans to resume passenger flights in the future as well, notably to connect London and Djibouti. To support Air Djibouti operations in Europe, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the company and Cardiff Aviation. Djibouti aims to enhance its sea-air freight synergies even further.
Djibouti aims to be a regional logistics hub, and as such, it is efficiently connected with neighboring countries.
Several railways are planned, linking Djibouti to Ethiopia and South Sudan in particular. The Tadjourah-Weldia-Mekele railway is one such critical continental corridor, linking Djibouti with the north of Ethiopia, including the potassium extraction site to the Tadjourah ore port.
Another Djibouti-Ethiopia link will connect both capitals, Djibouti and Addis Ababa. The construction of the railway is complete, and the line is expected to be operational in October 2015 and be the first step to the development of two railway lines. The first will connect Djibouti to the Atlantic Ocean through South Sudan, Central African Republic and Cameroon; the second, called Trans-African Railway Network, will link Djibouti to Dakar through Lagos. By connecting East Africa to West Africa, and the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, these lines are predicted to revolutionize world trade.
Since the partition of Sudan, Djibouti is also looking to become South Sudan’s outlet to the sea, much like it is Ethiopia’s. In February 2012, the three countries signed a cooperation agreement for the development of infrastructure such as telecommunications, transport and pipelines. Later that year, the South Soudan-Ethiopia-Djibouti (SSED) pipeline construction project agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, allowing South Sudan and Ethiopia to export their crude oil and gas via Djibouti.
Djibouti’s government is currently conducting negotiations to build a refinery, allowing Djibouti to import oil from South Sudan and the Gulf countries and sell processed, finished products in East Africa.
Another construction project in discussion is the bridge of the Horns, a 29-kilometre long bridge that would connect Djibouti to Yemen over the Bab-el-Mandeb strait. Six road lanes and four railway lines on the bridge will allow 100,000 vehicles and 50,000 rail passengers to cross the bridge daily. The bridge will also support a water and a LNG pipeline.