Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Djibouti’s role in international cooperation: Viewpoint

Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Over the years, Djibouti has demonstrated both the value and the importance of having a foreign policy approach that not only emphasises economic development but also paves the way for close cooperation with external partners in pursuit of this goal. For Djibouti, cooperation with our economic partners has always been a two-way process, and done correctly, it yields benefits for both parties. This can be seen clearly in our relationship with the rest of the region. Djibouti has historically positioned itself as a point of access for the region, and it is easy to see why. Located at the crossroads of two important continents, Africa and Asia, and sitting on one of the primary trade routes to Europe, Djibouti’s principal aim has been to leverage our geostrategic advantage to transform the economy into a regional platform for financial and logistics services.

A key factor in making this happen has been our relationships with our neighbours, including Ethiopia but also extending to countries far beyond that. In fact, Djibouti’s goal of being a regional logistical and financial platform is part of a wider series of efforts that we have undertaken with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia – all with the aim of fostering a common market to support the economic development of all countries in the sub-region.

The resulting extensive investments in Djibouti’s port, road and rail infrastructure have not only resulted in economic growth levels that are among Africa’s highest, but have allowed for a significant increase in economic connectivity with Ethiopia. By increasing access for trading partners to Ethiopia’s economy through Djibouti, we have successfully ensured benefits for both the Ethiopian and Djiboutian economies, ultimately laying the groundwork for the creation of more employment and economic opportunities on both sides of the border.

Similar efforts are helping with the development of Djibouti’s financial sector – which is itself another central part of the country’s long-term growth strategy. The establishment of an increasing number of commercial and investment banks over the past few years has raised Djibouti’s profile, emphasising our liberal financial environment and the wide array of products on offer. The Chinese yuan will be introduced as a currency for commercial transactions in Djibouti in the coming years. The interest of a number of major banks from China and elsewhere reassures us that there is significant potential to further develop the financial services sector in Djibouti.

Djibouti’s efforts to cooperate closely with our diplomatic partners can also be seen in our work with the international community, where – regardless of our small size – Djibouti has been a crucial contributor to peace and stability. For example, Djibouti has been a host for the foreign counter-terrorism coalition in the fight against piracy and human trafficking and also naval bases for numerous countries like the US , Germany , France , Japan, Italy, and China. Fraternal relations in the Horn of Africa, is a matter that we hold close to our heart. The stabilisation of Somalia has been our priority for the past 20 years, and Djibouti has been the organiser of various reconciliation conferences. Beyond that, we have even participated directly through a military contribution on the ground, under the framework of the African Union’s peacekeeping mission.

Djibouti’s peace building efforts have extended even beyond, with Djiboutian peacekeepers taking part in operations in the Central African Republic, Darfur and South Sudan. At the same time, our country has played a key role in the recent evacuation of refugees from war-torn Yemen and will continue doing so until a permanent solution is found. Djibouti aims to be a messenger of peace throughout the Horn of Africa and, through its stability, encourage investors to seize opportunities in the region that have tremendous potential for development.

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Mahamoud Ali Youssouf

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