Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh launched the first phase of
China-built Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ) on Thursday.
The 240-hectare trade zone will comprise of several major projects,
including one main office building expected to be completed in November
It will also house offices, a hotel and the warehouses of China
Merchants Bonded and East Africa Holdings. The construction of the
warehouses is already complete.
The $370 million project consists of three functional blocks located
close to all of Djibouti's major ports. The pilot zone will have four
industrial clusters, focusing on trade and logistics, export processing
and business support.
Already 21 companies have signed agreements to operate in the trade
zone, which is expected to considerably enhance the trade in the Horn of
Africa while strengthening Djibouti's position as a trade and logistics
While the first phase covers an area of 600 hectares, once completed,
the DIFTZ will be the largest free trade zone in Africa, with an area
of 40 km, and $3.5 billion investment in over 10 years.
The DIFTZ will be equipped with advanced facilities including
high-speed telecommunications, power and water supplies, roads and
parking lots to support operations of the companies operating in it.
The DIFTZ launch event was attended by head of states including Paul
Kagame, the president of Rwanda and chairperson of the African Union;
Omar Hassan El Bachir, the president of Sudan; Mohamed Abdillahi Mohamed
Farmajo, the president of Somalia; Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of
Ethiopia; and Moussa Fakki Mahamat, the chairperson of African Union
The presidents hailed the project saying it will not only benefit Djibouti but the entire African continent.
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, the chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones
Authority, said at the event that Djibouti is moving to the next stage
of its national development, thanks to the DIFTZ.
"We are building a global, modern and sustainable trade hub for the
coming decades. Djibouti's strategic location makes it an important
gateway to dynamic African markets," he said.
He added that the country sits on two of the world's busiest maritime
routes, and that 90 percent of global trade is carried by sea making it
an important global trade hub. It is also a key node on the Belt and
Road Initiative - one of the most ambitious infrastructure networks in
Connected to global trade routes and world-class infrastructure,
Aboubaker said DIFTZ will support Djibouti in adding value to the goods
passing through its borders.
He said DIFTZ is poised to become a flourishing business district in
the next few years, where international companies will set up their
regional headquarters, where logistics operators can plan their
shipments to regional markets, taking advantage of the proximity of the
ports, railway and new airport and where local businesses can grow and
find new opportunities.
Hu Jianhua, the executive vice-president of China Merchants Group
(CMG), said he is confident that the trade zone will be successful.
"CMG is open to share its Port-Park-City model experience, the PPC
model, which it gained in the 40 years of development of Shenzhen.
Djibouti is our top priority based on mutual trust. I'm confident that
the Port-Park-City model will be successful in Djibouti," he said.
Hu said the DIFTZ will not only accommodate the ever growing demands
in logistics but also cultivate the export processing manufacturing thus
providing sustainable incentives for Djibouti development and for the
rest of its inland partners.
The DIFTZ launch event was followed by the Africa-China Economic
Forum and Exhibition which aims to promote the opportunities for
economic collaboration and private sector transformation cooperation
between Africa and China.