President Paul Kagame was one of the few regional Heads of State who witnessed the commissioning of the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone yesterday. The zone covers an expanse of 48 square kilometres and was built with the help of the Chinese to the tune of $3.5 billion.
Djibouti is a very strategic location – for both economic and military reasons. Several military powers have naval bases there (with some saying it was to guard the vital Red Sea maritime route though in actual sense it is a silent geopolitical muscle flexing by the big boys).
But on the economic side of things, the zone is a godsend to the East African and Horn region. And it couldn’t have come at better time, when 49 African countries have just signed the Continental Free Trade Area that should open Africa’s trade potential.
At the moment, the world is bracing for mega tariff wars instigated by US President Donald Trump; China, NAFTA members (Canada and Mexico) and the EU. The Major economic powers will be kept busy for some time. This should be the right time for Africa to sit back and learn that stiff tariffs stifle growth and it only takes one person to disrupt the status quo to feel the ripple effects on the markets.
Africa has taken its time to patch up a treaty and the four or so countries still holding out should not be reason to hold back the creation of the continental common market.
But to turn attention back home briefly; some time ago Djibouti gave Rwanda 20 hectares of land on its port, a reciprocal gesture as Rwanda had similarly given them land at the Kigali Special Economic Zone. What is our private sector doing to see how it can exploit the opportunities Djibouti? They should jump on the boat.