ADDIS ABABA – African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina met with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and senior government officials at the weekend to discuss the country’s economic progress and opportunities.
Adesina was on a two-day official visit to the Horn of Africa nation where he received Djibouti’s highest honor of Commandeur dans l’ordre national.
He and President Guelleh discussed ways of transforming Djibouti’s economy as the country strives to achieve its vision of becoming an information, communication and technology (ICT) hub in the region.
Djibouti is largely dry and barren. Its population of nearly one million people relies on imported food. Its Red Sea port remains the main source of income and employment. It is also a gateway for landlocked neighboring Ethiopia.
“Djibouti needs to look beyond the port, diversify its economy and scale up development. Flying over the country,” Adesina said. “one sees huge tracts of dry land. But it is only when one meets and talks to the people in this country that one realizes, there is no drought in terms of ideas, creativity, passion and determination.”
President Guelleh thanked Adesina for his first visit to Djibouti and commended the African Development Bank for its multifaceted assistance to the country.
“You are supporting us in various areas, including the budget support that the Bank is providing to help our country meet the unexpected effects of the Covid-19 crisis,” Guelleh. “We welcome your support to Djibouti by focusing on energy, climate change, agriculture and transport infrastructure resilience.”
‘Could Become Global Data Center’
Djibouti was invited to consider joining the Bank Group’s Africa Disaster Risk Finance facility (ADRiFi), through which countries receive support to insure themselves against extreme weather events.
The facility is already helping nine countries pay for insurance premiums to protect themselves from the effects of climate change.
The Bank chief – who on Saturday toured a subsea cable landing station – said Djibouti had the potential to become a regional center of excellence in telecommunication.
Djibouti Telecom has two subsea cable landing stations serving more than 50 telecommunication operators with connections to over 90 countries in the world.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Djibouti will further help to connect Africa to the rest of the world, and also become a global center with data centers,” Adesina said, adding: “I definitely see a ‘Djibouti Beyond Ports,’ a nation that should move itself to becoming an ICT hub globally.”
Green Energy discussed
The Bank Group chief also toured one of Djibouti’s interconnection substations for power imported from neighboring Ethiopia. The Bank invested $60 million in the first interconnection with Ethiopia, to transmit a total of 320 megawatts.
Djibouti has approached the Bank for a similar investment to distribute an additional 320-megawatt line from Semera in Ethiopia to Nagad in Djibouti, a distance of 192 kilometers.
Adesina said Djibouti needed a diversified power generation system and encouraged the government to invest in wind and solar power. The AfDB has provided $20 million for geothermal exploration around Lake Assal region. The drilling and testing of the project have been completed.
The Bank is discussing with Djibouti the construction of the first solar plant that will generate 15 megawatts of power.
This plant will be part of the Bank-funded $20 billion Desert-to-Power initiative, which will deliver electricity to 250 million people across 11 countries.
With more African countries exploring clean and renewable energy, it is time to establish a regional training center for capacity building to serve the continent, AfDB chief said.
Featured Image Caption: African Development Bank Group President touring one of Djibouti’s interconnection substations for power imported from neighboring Ethiopia. [Photo AfDB]