Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 12 April 2014

Ethio-Djiboutian Relations: towards African economic integration


By Nurye Yassin

April 11, 201 - Coming from the uprooted communities in the New World and Europe, the ideology of Pan-Africanism has been triumphant as a libratory force in freeing the people of Africa from the dungeons of European imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Some posit that Pan-Africanism has succumbed as an integrative force in rejuvenating African countries through regional economic blocs aiming at regenerating the economic and political enterprise of the continent by replacing the colonial and neo-colonial methods.

In this regard, Professor Ali A. Mazuri asserts that Pan-Africanism as a revolt against white domination and damnation of the so-called hopeless continent succeeded by crushing the heels of exploiters with the independence of African nations along with the emancipation of black Diaspora in the New World. He goes on to say that Pan Africanism as an economic integrative force towards the unity of Africa has been kept at bay.

Although the said assertion seems appealing as African countries were vehemently concentrating on political considerations from the dawn of independence until the 1990s, many African countries have been thriving to combine their efforts to reach the apex of interdependence through regional economic communities so as to disengage themselves from dependency, suffering, indignity, hunger, instability, violence and other harrowing realities in every villages of Africa over the past decade. In the mean time, the leadership of Africa attaches special importance to economic considerations not to bend its knees to outsiders. This kind of move is now being reflected in the continent as many African countries are carrying a torch for a call for change-African Reawakening.

Meaningful progress has been made in harmonizing and integrating regional economic communities in the continent in various fields including trade liberalization and facilitation (the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)), free movements of people (the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)), infrastructure (the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC)), and peace and security (IGAD, ECOWAS and SADC).

One crystal clear example is the ongoing Ethio-Djiboutian all-rounded relations that have proved the assertion wrong. Pan-Africanism still holds a presence in the making of Africa’s tomorrow. Pan African interdependence as an integrative force in the eastern part of Africa under the institutional framework of IGAD is best explained by Djiboutian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Idris Farah. He said that “Ethiopia and Djibouti are inseparable; they are linked forever through their collaborative progress.” He symbolized Ethio-Djiboutian relations as a body system, saying that “the rail is like an umbilical cord; electricity, the heart; and water is blood.”

In deed, the two friendly countries have prioritized on the pivotal importance of enhanced regional integration to eradicate poverty and promote African Rebirth. Both sides have gone a long way in their economic partnership for mutual progress. One area is investing in infrastructure to combat the existing deficit and its implication on trade, businesses and investment. For instance, Prime Minister Hailemariam and President Guelleh embarked on 7 July, 2013 the construction of the new Addis Ababa-Dewele-Djibouti rail route. Both sides are committed to fast-track the construction of a new Tadjourah-Mekele rail corridor. When completed, this rail line would facilitate potash exports from the Denakil depression to the international market. Upgrading and maintaining of the Djibouti-Ethiopian Railway is also underway. A railway network from Juba-Addis Ababa-Djibouti is considered.

With reference to road transportation, Djibouti-Dire Dawa highway is being rehabilitated and the Dorra-Balho Northern Corridor is being constructed. Another area is power trading. Both sides have agreed on the 2nd electrical power system interconnectivity to work on a 230 kv power transmission project in addition to the already existing 35 MW power supply. Both sides are working on a project of supplying 100, 000 cubic meters of drinking water daily to Djibouti through a pipeline which will be completed this year. Ethiopia provides food, fruits and other natural resources to Djibouti.

The Government of Djibouti, on the other hand, has been dedicated to the expansion and rehabilitation of port facilities, conventional cargo and container capacity managed by Dubai Ports World (DPW) to provide adequate services to Ethiopia’s increased trade volume. The construction of the Horizontal Oil Terminal at Doraleh was completed in 2005 to supply all fuel imports for Djibouti and Ethiopia on the one hand, and provide fuels for French, American and other aviation, maritime and military forces, on the other.

The enhanced interconnectivity in hydropower, road, rail, port, water and other resources helps the two countries intensify trade, businesses, investments and other benefits and eradicate poverty, unemployment and other threats. This opens the way for cooperative partnership in jointly rooting out problems and having consultations on regional and global issues of common concern aiming at securing the peace and stability of the region for the betterment of the peoples of the Horn of Africa. One indispensable testimony is Ethio-Djiboutian ardent support to the warring parties of South Sudan to end the carnage through genuine discussion and constructive dialogue under the shade of IGAD mediation. Another compelling example is Ethio-Djibotian commitment to assist the people of Somalia in their search towards a peaceful, cohesive, prosperous country. Both countries have deployed their troops within the auspices of AMISOM to help the Somali National Army fight against Al-Shabab and eliminate the insurgents from the country. Again, both countries have consented in 2013 to cooperate on judicial matters, education, health, and sharing information as well as partner in the fight against illegal migration, human trafficking, disease (polio), criminals and other emerging threats.

This has resulted into the economic transformation of Ethiopia witnessing a meaningful economic, social and human development. Infrastructure development, increased foreign direct investment inflows and the acceleration of trade and business with the outside world have impacted in promoting and sustaining the economic growth over the last decade. Djibouti has also benefited in gaining cheap electricity for its industry and business, drinking water, increased revenues, development of port and other benefits. The Ethio-Djibouti belt has helped, according to David Styan, lecturer at the University of London, cement Ethiopia’s economic growth and transformation upon trade via the port of Djibouti and increased acceleration of regional interdependence in infrastructure development through energy, rail, and road.

The results are rooted from Ethiopia’s foreign policy direction and its ardent commitment to the realization of oneness, unity and solidarity in the continent as well as Djibouti’s Strategic Integration Plan to accelerate the regional economic union between the two countries and beyond. Ethiopia’s foreign policy is crafted with the firm conviction that the development of Ethiopia is intertwined with the fate of its neighbors. That means, embracing the arms of shared vision and win-win approach, Ethiopia’s march towards peace, prosperity and its ultimate survival encompasses the lives and livelihoods of the peoples of neighboring countries. This policy suggests that, according to the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, “you cannot have a desperate ghetto next door to a prosperous safe haven.”

As a beacon of hope for African liberation and independence, Ethiopians have come to the fore in the theatre of participating in designing regional economic system to end Africa’s marginalization through power trade, rail and road networks. As they were the beacon of hope and symbol of liberty, freedom and independence for blacks and Orientals of the East in winning a resounding victory over foreign powers in Adowa in 1896, they are now enthusiastically demonstrating their efforts to the continuation of a historical responsibility to commit to regional integration and to the ultimate success of African Renaissance.

Under the institutional framework of IGAD, Ethiopia and Djibouti along with other neighboring countries are devoted their energy and efforts to regional integration to integrate in the international trade, prevent the challenges of globalization, efficiently and swiftly reduce the threats emerging from the volatility and uncertainty of the changing world environment, fill the unbridgeable gulf of the technology-divide, and level the unfair playing field of the international political economy. This will unquestionably create an enabling situation where sustainability, increased investment, the consolidation of economic and political reforms, increased competitiveness, the promotion of public goods including water resources, and the avoidance of violence cling to the continent’s political and economic machinery in making the region the coming growth frontier. The way forward is clear. Ethio-Djiboutians and their fellow Africans will not perish as a result of economic disintegration rather prosper on the hemisphere of the booming economies and the emerging of the Africa Rising narrative.

An independent researcher on African and Middle Eastern Affairs.

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