Located in East Africa, Djibouti is a small country about 23,000 square kilometers in size and having a population of about 900,000 people. Despite its small size, however, Djibouti is located at an important place, the mouth of the Red Sea, particularly for marine shipping. This location is 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, India and then the rest of the Asia-Pacific region on one leg and to South Africa on another leg. The advantages that this geographical positioning gives Djibouti are demonstrated by the fact that the volume of cargo handled by Djibouti grows each year.
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.
During the civil war in Djibouti following independence, other international aid agencies halted operations, but Japanese aid agencies extended assistance throughout, resulting in an amicable relationship that continues to this day.
Although Djibouti is called the hottest country in the world, that's because the average temperature is always high throughout the year. People often say that Djibouti has three seasons: "hot, hotter and hottest." At around 100 millimeters, the annual rainfall in the country is extremely low and rain is rarely seen even along the coastline. Because of the scant precipitation, commercial agriculture is difficult to implement, and the climate conditions are so harsh, the food self-sufficiency ratio is a mere 3 percent, so the country imports most of its food and depends on donors to make up the rest.
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. Fresh fish are caught all year round, including tuna, bonito and sea bream, and three restaurants serve sashimi and sushi.
Since 2000, JICA has dispatched Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to Djibuti. JICA has also worked on infrastructure close to people's lives such as constructing schools, improving urban roads and building water purification facilities. More recent projects include the construction of a solar power plant, geothermal energy development , teacher training schools and wells for villagers. Going forward, we plan to develop social projects with an emphasis on water, energy, coast guard capacity improvement and food security. And to assume regional maritime security, JICA has assisted Djibouti Coastal Guard(DCG) for the enhancement of its capacity.
TOGAWA Toru, Resident Representative
JICA Djibouti Office