Djibouti Launches Chinese-built Free Trade Zone

Djibouti on Thursday launched the first phase of a Chinese-built Free Trade Zone, hailed as being the biggest in Africa.

The nearly 50sq kilometre zone will house manufacturing, warehouse facilities, an export-processing area and a services centre.

President Ismael Omar Guelleh officially opened the zone, flanked by other heads of state including Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Mohamed Abdullahi (Somalia), Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) and Abiy ahmed (Ethiopia).

Also in attendance were the African Union Commission chairperson Moussa faki Mahamat an Chinese officials.

The zone is expected to handle trade worth US$7 billion within two years, and create 15,000 jobs when complete.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi hailed the free-trade zone as a “victory for East Africa”.

Presidents Ismael Omar Guelleh (Second left) Paul Kagame, Omar al-Bashir, Abdullahi Mohamed (Second right) and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Third right) listen in on how the Free Trade Zone will operate.

With a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti already handles most imports for neighbouring Ethiopia, and aims to become a gateway to South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region.

A row of Djiboutian and Chinese flags fluttered side by side in the launching ceremony, a sign of the close relations the two countries enjoy.

China has been hailed as being behind the massive infrastructural growth in the Horn of African country – which also hosts the only overseas Chinese military base.

Djibouti is seen as a critical cog in China’s ambitious Belt and Road project which aims to create transport links across the world to ease movement of goods and people to facilitate global trade.


Written by PH

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