Dr. Abiy: Why Assab and Berbera Ports Matters Now?

Assab, Djibouti and Berbera Ports are roughly (average) the same distances to Addis Abbaba which is about 800km. Luckily; these three ports are located three different countries, namely Eritrea, Djiabout and Somaliland respectively. These ports in the neighboring states are not only strategic alone, but also in a stable, semi-equipped and economic-suitable manner. All these ports are now functioning in different capacities under various circumstances. Djibouti is highly established, while Assab and Berbera ports are only needed skinned services, and small re-organizing and re-structuring to the maximum of regional and continental class. Honestly speaking, the whole process requires readiness and is under a political will based on trust, respect and good-faith among member states.
A population of 100 million plus, with double digit rate of  an economic growth, one foreign port, in a small country with several military bases will not be and would not remain as an option and a reliable choice.  Therefore; Assab and Berbera ports can save a lot of problems at home and in Djibouti as well, and facilitate many other opportunities in the region and beyond.
Djibouti which is the only port currently Ethiopia uses to import over ninety percent of its goods and basic commodities is not only unreliable but also naivety to put all your eggs in a one basket. The problem is not only the international sovereignty of Djibouti, but any disagreement between these two friendly nations can turn Ethiopian-citizens into unpredictable human disasters. Besides that; external forces and non-human factors or alien interventions, such as natural disasters, outbreaks, geo-political incidents and so forth may jeopardize smoothly running import and export activities, and lead into abyss both nations, whom hugely dependents on this port.
Djibouti port the highest, modern and super infrastructural facility is taking advantage and relative from other two ports, simply because of political and diplomatic issues, no more no less. The second functioning and under massive re-innovations is Berbera port, which is located in Somaliland, a self-declared state, not yet internationally recognized, that’s why Ethiopia which hosts African Union Headquarters is hesitating to fully operationalise it. While Assab port become useless and evacuated after Ethio-Eritrean conflict, which devastated both nations, and retard their economical and social developments.
In Berbera port, Ethiopia is already a stakeholder, securing 19% of the newly tripartite agreements between Somaliland, United Emirates and Ethipia. While; Assab Port used to be the only Ethiopian main port before Eritrea broke away from the mainland and devastated war broke-out between two brotherly nations.
In May 2016, DP World signed a US$442 million accord with the government of Somaliland to take control of and operate a regional trade and logistics hub at the Port of Berbera. The project, which will be phased in, will also engage the setting up of a free zone.  On 1 March 2018, Ethiopia became a major shareholder following an agreement with DP World and the Somaliland Port Authority. DP World holds a 51% stake in the project, Somaliland 30% and Ethiopia the remaining 19%. As part of the agreement, the government of Ethiopia will invest in infrastructure to develop the Berbera Corridor as a trade gateway for the landlocked country, which is one of the fastest rising countries in the world.
 On the other side of the cliff; until 1998, Ethiopia used Assab as port to process 2/3rd of its trade with the world. Ever since and due to closed borders between Eritrea and Ethiopia, both the port and the port town lost most of their significance. The port facilities were greatly expanded in the early 1990s, with the construction of the new terminal, but the port has declined since trade with Ethiopia was concluded in 1998 as a consequence of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War.
Djibouti, Berbera and Assab ports can feed horn of African people, whom shares every song and saga, efficiently and reliably. Connecting Addis into Assab and Berbera, in addition to Djibouti, is increasing Addis’s role of diplomatic hub into economic and commercial one. Addis should come up with a responsible policies and mature diplomacy to become the hub of all these ports and simultaneously utilized these all available alternatives at hand in a manner benefiting all the nations in the region. Dr. Abbiys’ energetic leadership needs to be concrete and prioritizes national and regional agendas economically and socially. Functioning these three ports will incur mobility of goods and services, capital and labor, financial and technology, while encouraging cross-border businesses and small scale transactions. Addis will not be the only benefiter of these other two ports, but Somaliand and Eritrea will also benefit grossly economically, socially and politically.
Mustafe Baroud
PhD follow, Haramaya University

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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