April 2019

In April, the operational environment in Djibouti has remained stable. Due to the volatile situations persisting in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, refugee arrivals are expected to continue. So far, the estimated number of people in dire need of help in Djibouti is estimated to be 42,100, consisting of about 24,600 refugees and 17,500 asylum-seekers. UNHCR is working with other UN agencies and partners on a response strategy to prepare for a potential influx from Somalia as a result of the recurrent drought. Djibouti maintains its open-door policy with regard to access to territory for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Another crucial challenge is maximizing profits from the country’s coveted geostrategic location. Djibouti hosts military bases from numerous foreign countries, including France, China, Japan, and the United States. Because the country is relatively lacking in resources, generating revenue from its position will remain key for Djibouti going forward. Relatedly, Djibouti wants to develop itself into a hub of logistics in East Africa. Already, the country benefits greatly from being nearly the sole conduit for Ethiopia’s imports and exports. Consequently, Djibouti will need to continue proving its attractiveness to outside powers such as China and the United Arab Emirates as it seeks additional infrastructure developments to further its goals in the years ahead.

Finally, Djibouti continues to strengthen its bilateral relationship with China. To China, Djibouti is a linchpin to their belt and road initiative, a complex undertaking that tries to intensify connectivity throughout the world over land and sea. However, in this endeavour, the rising debt to the Chinese is proving worrisome to western powers such as the America and France who have set military bases in the country. This demonstrates a probable power shift to the East. All this has happened in the wake of Djibouti’s presidency visiting Beijing to celebrate forty years of Djibouti-China relations and a promise to deepen cooperation between the two nations. Djibouti is likely to continue making strategic bilateral ties in a bid to increase its economic standing in the coming months.

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