How do you assess the launch and implementation of Djibouti Vision 2035?
DAWALEH: Djibouti Vision 2035 established a long-term development strategy to transform the economy and leave behind traditional services that cannot and will not be able to provide sufficient jobs for the workforce. In order to enhance its strategic position, Djibouti has embarked on major economic programmes that have demanded changes such as sector diversification and budget expansion. These are no small tasks, as increasing tax liabilities requires the mobilisation of significant internal and external resources. In 2010, for example, with a narrow tax base, budgetary revenue was only about $343.2m, of which $60.8m came from military agreements. Steps have been taken since then to find more external aid and new partnerships. The 2010-17 period saw approximately $2.2bn in loans and $800m in donations mobilised and distributed. The fact that this sum includes less foreign aid every year confirms that Djibouti has become a middle-income country. To date, we have nine sectors with priority projects that benefit from these resources, compared to four in 2010. That said, despite the diversification that has followed this financing, infrastructure – and especially work on the ports and new railway line – remains the sector requiring the most public expenditure, with almost 50% of its funding facilitated by the state.
What is the roadmap for achieving the plan’s medium- and long-term objectives?
DAWALEH: The Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Employment Promotion for 2015-19 identified strategic areas for development, including competitiveness and giving the private sector a leading role, as well as human capital development. Djibouti’s development model will no longer be centred on the state. We therefore need to guide the private sector so that it can tap into new sectors which will be able to create real comparative advantages and generate jobs. One of our priorities remains the diversification of the economy, especially in logistics and transport, fishery, tourism, ICT, renewable energy and the creation of regional economic clusters. Djibouti is in the process of shifting from 100% fuel-generated energy to 100% green energy by 2020. I remain confident that removing the constraints and barriers faced by the private sector, and combining fast-paced infrastructure modernisation with steady policy reform, will create the momentum we are looking for in terms of competitiveness. But competitiveness also means digital transformation. We believe that this will bring innovative solutions to the country’s challenges. In line with this objective, the Ministry of Education is in the process of giving all primary schools broadband internet access.
What initiatives are under way to develop human capital that can participate in economic growth?
DAWALEH: On this front, we are working to break with the past and its old educational models. Growth and the new demands of commerce have highlighted the need for sufficient, high-level human capital. To address this need, a great deal of investment has been allocated to help modernise the higher education system. It is important to allow current and future generations, regardless of their social origins, to benefit from the development that the country enjoys. The growth model based on public administration is over. A generation of entrepreneurs must emerge and, to this end, the new Centre of Leadership and Entrepreneurship will constitute a major opportunity, bringing together all of the ecosystem’s major players. The centre will open the door to a new mindset for young people, through which self-realisation, skill development and leadership abilities will enable young Djiboutians to learn how to thrive, create and prosper, rather than wait for public administration jobs that will never be sufficient for the thousands of graduate and non-graduate workers pouring into the employment marketplace each year.
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