Djibouti is a small country located on the Horn of Africa, has a population of 1 million people. However, its location at the mouth of the Red Sea is strategically and geopolitically important.
Djibouti is, from the security policy perspective, considered one of the most important countries when it comes to geopolitics. Several foreign countries have maintained military bases in Djibouti for several years. Djibouti is also the first and the only foreign country where Japan Self-Defense Forces has a base for counter-piracy.
Positioned directly at the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the crossroads of two marine routes, one going from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, providing access to Europe and North Africa, and another traveling along the Arabian Peninsula to the Gulf States and Indo-Pacific region, Djibouti plays a major role for marine shipping. The advantages that this geographical positioning gives Djibouti are demonstrated by the fact that the volume of cargo handled by Djibouti grows each year. Djibouti has an improved natural harbor known as the Port of Djibouti. 90% of Ethiopia's imports and exports move through Djiboutian ports. The newly established Port of Doraleh, located in west of Djibouti City, has been recognized as the top container port in Africa.
Japan has promoted the vision of a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" (FOIP) as a core pillar of its foreign policy. And Djibouti, at the east Africa, is the front line of FOIP.
In 1986, 38 Japanese people residing in what was then South Yemen escaped to Djibouti during the civil war there, and in May 1994, 75 Japanese residents and travelers underwent an emergency evacuation from Yemen in another civil war, going to Djibouti before returning home to Japan. Such incidents have brought relations between Djibouti and Japan closer together. A symbol of Japanese economic cooperation, Fukuzawa Secondary School was constructed in 1995 as a part of Japan's expression of gratitude to Djibouti, and today has become an enormous school with more than 3,000 students and is one of the most distinguished schools in the country. The mindful exchange between Djiboutian and Japanese has kept on in more recent incidents, such as 3.11 Great East Japan earthquake in 2011 and the inundation in Djibouti 2019.
Even during the civil war in Djibouti following independence, Japanese aid agencies extended assistance throughout, resulting in an amicable relationship that continues to this day.
Djibouti is known as one of the hottest countries in the world. Because of the scant precipitation and severe climate conditions, commercial agriculture and the food self-sufficiency ratio are very limited.
Despite the low level of rainfall, Djibouti has other treasures, such as a coral reef in Tadjoura Bay, which pierces the interior of the country, with an abundance of multicolored tropical fish both great and small. The bay also serves as a migration area for whale sharks that may travel in a shoal of more than 20 at a time, a diver's paradise. Lakes include the naturally formed saline Lake Assal and the volcanic Lake Abbe with a nearby hot spring. The natural beauty of this region is an attraction.
Since 2000, JICA has dispatched Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to Djibouti and worked closely with Djiboutian. JICA has also worked on three priority areas; 1) Strengthening Economic and Social Infrastructure for Sustainable Economic Growth, 2) Fostering Human Resources to Support the Economy, and 3) Support for Regional Stabilization Efforts. Our cooperation has always been close to people's lives such as improving urban roads and ferry, constructing schools, and enhancing capacity of Djibouti Coast Guard, etc. We, JICA Djibouti Office, will continue to work together with the Djiboutian people for the development, peace and prosperity of the country, based on the mutual respect and trust.
KANEDA Masayuki, Chief Representative,
JICA Djibouti Office