Djibouti’s president heads to China amid burgeoning economic ties

Chinese warship in Djibouti
Photo: AP
Chinese warship in Djibouti
Photo: AP

Today, Chinese officials welcome the president of Djibouti, whose nation hosts China’s first overseas military base.

Small but strategically located, Djibouti is also home to a US naval base, a Japanese facility and a French contingent. Saudi Arabia is also planning a base of its own.

The deluge of military encampments is a result of the fact that Djibouti oversees the vital Bab el Mandeb strait, which links the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Some 10% of the world’s LNG transits through Mandeb, as do Asian goods destined for European markets.

Here, China’s influence is notable. Beijing has poured billions into Djibouti in the past decade. Indeed, just last week, a state-owned Chinese firm was part of a consortium that signed a $4 billion deal to develop gas infrastructure in Djibouti to transport Ethiopian gas. Chinese firms are also building an airport and railway to connect neighbouring Ethiopia.

Expect smiles, handshakes and more tantalising economic agreements during the two-day visit as Beijing continues to woo the leaders of this strategically located republic.

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