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Djibouti port loses traffic shares from neighbouring Ethiopia

According to the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Transport, the volume of Ethiopia trade channeled through Djibouti has decreased significantly in the past six months, from 95 to 83.9 percent.

The ports of Djibouti and Tadjoura - the latter used by Ethiopia since July 2020 - are connected to Ethiopia through three roads (via the border posts of Galafi, Dewele and Balho) and a railway line that in the last years has registered a progressive growth of volumes transported, reaching to handle now about 25% of the total import and export freight moved from to the Djibouti port. All together, Djiboutian roads and the Djibouti railway line channeled 95% or more of Ethiopian trade, reaching in some periods also a 98% peak.

For the first time from decades, the volumes of goods passing through Djibouti have decreased. Not only because of the conflict in Ethiopia, but also because of the increased utilization of other ports in the region, especially the Berbera port, that now handles 5.9 percent of this traffic. In the latest years, Ethiopia has acquired stakes in other ports along the East African coast and recently, the country showed interest to participate in the construction of the port of Zeila in Somaliland, close to the Djibouti border.

Being a landlocked country, Ethiopia has inherent disadvantages compared to countries with coastlines and deep-sea ports. Trade is more difficult and costly because it can access most foreign markets only through international transport corridors located in neighboring countries.

Over the last decade, Ethiopia has devoted great efforts to reducing its dependence on Djibouti, convinced that only a port diversification strategy could lead to a reduction in the high service charges that the country pays to its neighbour for the use of ports, due to increased competition among ports in the region in serving Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Transport plans now to make a more intensive use of the Lamu and Mombasa ports in Kenya in the next months, even though it has not explained how. However, the challenge remains the geographical proximity. The road connecting Mombasa to Addis Ababa that passes through Nairobi and the Moyale border post is about 2000 Km long. Even though Lamu port cuts this distance of about 300 km., the Kenyan port still cannot compete with Djibouti, as the roads connecting the two ports of Djibouti to Addis Ababa are about half this distance.

However, Ethiopia has a huge territory, and Kenyan ports could serve in future the Southern part of the country by profiting from the limited connectivity of this region with the Djibouti ports.






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