Good Company

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Horn of Africa: Djibouti's hope

Nice piece found here on the one stable country in the Horn of Africa:
Because of Djibouti's excellent port and strategic location - the eye of the storm between the Middle East across the Red Sea and the troubled Horn of Africa - it has attracted some 1,800 U.S. troops. They are stationed mostly at Camp Lemonier, under the command of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Richard W. Hunt, with 2,300 French Foreign Legionnaires. There is also a joint international naval task force, including U.S. assets, in the Indian Ocean waters that include Djibouti.

All of that helps. But Djibouti also has plans for the future.

Dubai, in the Persian Gulf, started with little more than an excellent port. It has some oil, but that accounts for only 6 percent of its income. The rest is financial services, trade, and investment. Djibouti could do likewise, with a bit of enterprise, gumption, and foreign help.

Promising areas include fishing, environmental tourism, a role as an east coast depot for trade across Africa, and related financial services. Fish would be caught in the extensive waters off Djibouti and Somalia, brought to Djibouti for processing and storage, then exported across the world.

Eco-tourism - any kind of tourism - may seem hard to imagine at this point. Djibouti has killer heat, only one dubious major hotel, and generally forbidding desert terrain. But that is a misleading impression. The country has countless beautiful, colorful fish to dive for off the coast, a wide variety of interesting and unusual birds in the interior, and for those - unlike me - who like such things, a wide variety of nasty snakes and other reptiles to see and study. There is also a lovely, isolated lake, and cool mountains. A new world-class hotel is scheduled to open in October.

All of Djibouti's development possibilities require secure seas offshore. Somali pirates could wreck the whole show. Thus, naval security becomes essential. International naval assets are a temporary solution, but they are inadequate now, particularly for fishing and heavier cruise ship volume, and who knows how long they will be there. This becomes an issue of long-term concern to Djibouti, and to its president.
Dreams gotta start somewhere, I guess.

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