Interview: Moussa Ahmed Hassan

What are the main developments that are occurring in Djibouti’s transport sector?

MOUSSA AHMED HASSAN: Our vision is to construct an integrated logistical ecosystem in Djibouti to optimise the transportation of goods and build our status as the main gateway to East Africa. First, the construction of a new railway connecting Addis-Ababa to Djibouti, extending over 750 km, was announced in summer 2013. The project – which required an investment of $4bn – began construction in 2014 and is now nearing completion, with 90% of the infrastructure already in place on the Djiboutian side. The new railway will be much faster than the previous one and will considerably help connect the landlocked countries in the sub-region. Furthermore, revamping the railway system is symbolic as, with the exception of caravans, railway was the only means of transportation between the two countries for a century. Note that the road network was only developed in 1970s.

Along with the railway, Djibouti has also invested heavily in the development of an efficient port system by putting in place a network of specialised ports – one for livestock, one for containers, one for oil, and an upcoming multi-purpose one – which will all be connected to the railway and road networks. To date, Djibouti’s port system boasts one of the fastest ratios for efficiency in the world.

We are also aiming to build a new airport to further intermodal connections between the different means of transportation and facilitate the development of additional logistical services within free zones. These later will serve as catalysts of growth to attract new investors, boost the development of new industrial activities and increase our share in the regional and global chain supply.

In addition, we are also upgrading the road network by building a new road connecting the Port of Tadjourah to the Ethiopian border at Balho and constructing a new highway from Djibouti to the Ethiopian border at Galilé. This new corridor will massively support the current road system and further avoid bottlenecks. Note that today trucks only take one minute to pass through the border. These new roads will also be tolled highways and fully equipped with parking and all needed facilities. Our ambition is to revitalise transportation standards and deliver a quality logistics service to serve import-export activities for Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia.

Lastly, Djibouti City will also go through major changes. In order to host new companies, Djibouti will accelerate the development of new office spaces and industrial zones to facilitate the access of new services and economic activities.

We think we have all the cards in hand to succeed and the luck to be in a continent where economies are currently booming. Djibouti has strong assets and a strategic location; because of this we have to invest heavily in transportation and fully tap into its potential as a regional logistical hub.

In what ways have measures been implemented to ensure the transfer of know-how?

HASSAN: Big projects are important for job creation. For example, two-thirds of the workforce of the railway project are made up of local workers, with 1200 Djiboutian workers out of 1600. We strive to ensure all these big development projects trickle down to benefit the population. Moreover, the developers are large foreign companies with know-how that are working with local sub-contracted companies that benefit from this knowledge.

Furthermore, Djibouti can now share its experience with other countries and blocks, such as the COMESA, to show it is possible to both develop quality infrastructure and transform the economy. COMESA has a policy of regional integration and the development of our revitalised transport infrastructure is wholly in line with the organisation’s roadmap.