The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Djibouti: Rugged, beautiful hugging the Indian ocean
The Republic of Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa and bordered by Somali to the south, Ethiopia to the southwest, Eritrea to the north, and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the east, Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of 921,804 inhabitants. The country is named for its capital — Djibouti.
The nation is strategically located near some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It serves as a key re-fuelling and transshipment center, and is the principal maritime port for imports from and exports to neighboring Ethiopia. A burgeoning commercial hub, the nation is the site of various foreign military bases. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional body also has its headquarters in Djibouti City.
History and government
Djibouti is a unitary presidential republic, with executive power resting in the presidency, which is by turn dominant over the cabinet, and legislative power. President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, is the prominent figure in Djiboutian politics, the head of state and commander-in-chief. Guelleh exercises executive power assisted by his appointed prime minister, Abdoulkader Kamil Moh- amed. The Council of Ministers (cabinet) is responsible to and presided over by the president. The
judicial system is comprised of courts of first instance, a High Court of Appeal, and a Supreme Court. The legal system is a blend of French civil law and customary law (Xeer) of the Somali and Afar peoples.
The National Assembly (formerly the Chamber of Deputies) is the country's legislature, consisting of 65 members elected every five years. Although unicameral, the Constitution provides for the creation of a Senate.
Djibouti foreign relations are managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The nation maintains close ties with Somalia, Ethiopia, France and the United States. Djibouti is a member of the African Union, United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Arab League affairs.
The Djibouti military is comprised of the army, navy, air force, and the National Gendarmerie. In 2011 military forces numbered 170,386 males and 221,411 females. Djibouti spent over $36 million annually on its military as of 2011 (141st in the SIPRI database). After independence, Djibouti had two regiments commanded by French officers. In the early 2000s, it looked out- ward for a model of army organization that would best advance defensive capabilities by restructuring forces into smaller, more mobile units instead of traditional divisions.
Djibouti is situated in the Horn of Africa on the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-el-Mandeb, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea at the Great Rift Valley. The Djibouti coastline extends 195 miles with terrain composed of plateau, plains and highlands. Djibouti has a total area of 9,000 square miles. The Mousa Ali mountain range is considered the country's highest at an elevation of 6,654 feet. The Grand Bara desert covers parts of southern Djibouti in the Arta, Ali Sabieh and Dikhil regions.
Djibouti is located on the Horn of Africa and is a mostly French- and Arabic-speaking nation of dry shrublands, volcanic for- mations and Gulf of Aden beaches. Known as the Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura due to its location, Djibouti is strategically positioned near the world's busiest shipping lanes and serves as a refueling and trans- shipment center. The Port
of Djibouti is the principal maritime port for imports and exports from neighbor- ing Ethiopia. Djibouti-Ambo- uli International Airport is the main domestic hub con- necting the capital to other major global destinations. Djibouti has the second largest economy of any city in the Horn of Africa after Addis Ababa, bearing a population of 1.1 million.
In February 2021, Djibouti awarded a $ 6.5 million contract to KenGen, the Kenyan power generation company for the drilling of three geothermal wells in the Lake Assal region. The company will not solely focus on geothermal work, but also plans on providing training and capacity building that should produce engineers and technicians in the coming years and drill for water.
Djibouti presents a ruggedly beautiful allure, located in the northeaster region on the Horn of Africa. It is mostly a French- and Arabic-speaking country of dry shrublands, volcanic formations and Gulf of Aden beaches. It's home to one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, the low-lying Lake Assal, in the Danakil Desert. The nomadic Afar people have settlements along Lake Abbe, a body of saltwater saltwater featuring chimney- like mineral formations. Evidence of its volcanic origins can be seen everywhere from cooled lava formations, and geo-thermal uprisings in Lake Abbe.
Djibouti's greatest natural resource are her attractive people who num- ber just shy of one million. Since 2012, the population has grown by more than 300,000.
Djibouti has its complement of wildlife from the tiny elephant shrew to exotic birds, lion, jackal, giraffe, elk, and grazing sheep. Lion and leopard are scarcely seen in 2021. These predators are considered endangered. in Djibouti. But hyena and jackals fare much better.
Most of Djibouti is part of the Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands eco-region. The exception is an eastern strip which runs parallel to the Red Sea. Djibouti's climate is signifi- cantly warmer and has significantly less seasonal variation than the world average. The mean daily maximum temperatures range of 90 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, except at high elevations, where average afternoon highs range from 82 to 93 degrees in April. Djibouti's climate ranges from arid in the northeastern coastal regions to semi-arid in the central, northern, western and southern parts of the country. On the eastern seaboard, annual rainfall is less than 5 inches; in the central highlands, precipitation averages 8-16 inches.
Wildlife, flora, and fauna
Access to Djibouti wildlife is Day Forest National Park. This rather small wildlife preserve is only 2,200 acres, and one of the few wooded areas in the country, accounting for less than one percent of the total surface of the country. Green life endemic to Djibouti totals about 820 species of plants. Apart from this small, cool verdant area, most other animals and other wildlife species will likely only be sighted in proximity to the very limited supplies of water.
According to the country profile related to biodiversity of wildlife in Djibouti, the nation contains more than 493 species of invertebrates, 455 species of fish, 40 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, 360 species of birds and 66 species of mammals. While the endangered and dangerous lion and leopard are occasionally seen in Djibouti, other dangerous predators such as hyena and jackal and are more likely to pose a threat to prey animals such as baboons, warthogs, and antelope. As the result of a hunting ban imposed in the 1970s, many of Djibouti’s endemic species have sprung back from the point of elimination.
Djibouti's economy is largely concentrated in the service sector. Commercial activities revolve around the country's free trade policies and strategic location as a Red Sea transit point. Due to limited rainfall, vegetables and fruits are the principal crops. Other food items are imported. The GDP was estimated at $2.505 billion in 2013, with a real growth rate of 5 percent annually. Per capita income is around $2,874 (PPP). The services sector constituted around 79.7 percent of the GDP, followed by industry at 17.3 percent, and agriculture at 3 percent.
The Port of Djibouti handles the bulk of the nation's trade. About 70 percent of seaport business is comprised of the import and export of products from neighboring Ethiopia. As of 2018, 95 percent of Ethiopia’s products were handled by the Port of Djibouti. The port also serves as an international refueling center and transshipment hub. The Djiboutian government operates the port in collaboration with DP World of China, which constructed an extension to the Djibouti seaport called the Port of Doraleh, located 3.1 miles west of Djibouti City. The multi- purpose port, which cost $396 million, has 15 terminals with a capacity to accommodate 1.5 million 20-foot con- tainer units annually, handles oil, bulk cargo, and livestock. It was partially owned and operated by DP World and China Merchants Holdings, until its container facility was seized by the Djibouti government in February 2018.
Djibouti was ranked the 177th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 by Euromoney Country Risk rankings. To improve the environment for direct foreign investment, the Djibouti authorities in conjunction with various non-profit organizations have launched a number of development projects aimed at highlighting the country's commercial potential. The government has also introduced new private sector policies targeting high interest and inflation rates, including relaxing the tax burden on enterprises and allowing exemptions on consumption tax.
Additionally, efforts have been made to lower the estimated 60 percent urban unemployment rate by creating more job opportunities through investment in diversified sectors. Funds have especially gone toward building telecom- munications infrastructure and increasing disposable income by supporting small businesses. Owing to its growth potential, the fishing and agro-processing sector, which represents around 15 percent of GDP, has also enjoyed rising investment since 2008. To expand the modest industrial sector, a 56 megawatt geothermal power plant was completed in 2018 is being constructed with the help of OPEC, the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility. The facility is expected to ultimately solve the recurring electricity shortages, decrease the nation's reliance on Ethiopia for energy, reduce costly oil imports for diesel-generated electricity, and thereby buttress the GDP and lower debt.
The Djibouti firm Salt Investment (SIS) began a large-scale operation to industrialize the plentiful salt in Djibouti's Lake Assal region. Operating at an annual capacity of four million tons, the desalination project has lifted export revenues, created more job opportunities, and provided more fresh water for the area's residents. In 2012, the Djibouti government also enlisted the services of the China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd for the construction of an ore terminal. Worth $64 million, the project enabled Djibouti to export a further 5,000 tons of salt per year to markets in Southeast Asia.
Djibouti's gross domestic product expanded by an average of more than 6 percent per year, from $341 million in 1985 to $1.5 billion in 2015. The Djiboutian franc is the currency of Djibouti. It is issued by the Central Bank of Djibouti, the country's monetary authority. Since the Djiboutian franc is pegged to the US dollar, it is generally stable and inflation is not a problem. This has contributed to the growing interest in investment in the country. As of 2010, 10 conventional and Islamic banks operate in Djibouti. Most arrived within the past few years, including the Somali money transfer company Dahabshiil and BDCD, a subsidiary of Swiss Financial Investments.
The banking system had previously been monopolized by two institutions: the Indo-Suez Bank and the Commer- cial and Industrial Bank (BCIMR). To assure a robust credit and deposit sector, the Djibouti government requires commercial banks to maintain 30 of shares in the financial institution;[clarification needed] a minimum of 300 million Djiboutian francs in up-front capital is mandatory for international banks. Lending has likewise been encouraged by the creation of a guarantee fund, which allows banks to issue loans to eligible small- and medium-sized businesses without first requiring a large deposit or other collateral.
The Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City, the country's only international airport, serves many intercontinental routes with scheduled and chartered flights. Air Djibouti is the flag carrier of Djibouti and is the country's largest airline.
The new and electrified standard gauge Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway started operation in January 2018. Its main purpose is the connection to the Port of Dorale Car ferries pass the Gulf of Tadjoura from Djibouti City to Tadjoura. The Port of Doraleh is the terminal of the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway. In addition to the port, Djibouti has three other major ports — the Port of Tadjourah (potash), the Damerjog Port (livestock) and the Port of Goubet (salt).
The Djiboutian highway system is named according to the road classification. Roads that are considered primary roads are those that are fully asphalted (throughout their entire length) and in general they carry traffic between all the major towns in Djibouti. The country is part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that runs from the Chinese coast to the Upper Adriatic region with its connections to Central and Eastern Europe.
Media and telecommunications
Telecommunications in Djibouti fall under the authority of the Ministry of Communication. Djibouti Telecom is the sole provider of telecommunication services. It mostly utilizes a microwave radio relay network. A fiber-optic cable is installed in the capital, whereas rural areas are connected via wireless local loop radio systems. Mobile cellular coverage is primarily limited to the area in and around Djibouti city.
As of 2015, 23,000 telephone main lines and 312,000 mobile/cellular lines were in use. The SEA-ME-WE 3 sub- marine cable operates to Jeddah, Suez, Sicily, Marseille, Colombo, Singapore and beyond. Telephone, satellite Earth stations include 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat. Medarabtel is the regional microwave radio relay telephone network. Radio Television of Djibouti is the state-owned national broadcaster. It operates the sole terrestrial TV station, as well as the two domestic radio networks on AM 1, FM 2, and shortwave 0. Licensing and operation of broadcast media is regulated by the Djibouti government. Film theaters include the Odeon Cinema in the capital. As of 2012, there were 215 local internet service providers. Internet users comprised around 99,000 individuals (2015). The internet country top-level domain is .dj.
Djibouti has an installed electrical power generating capacity of 126 MW from fuel oil and diesel plants. In 2002 electrical power output was put at 232 GWh, with consumption at 216 GWh. At 2015, per capita annual electricity consumption is about 330 kilowatt-hours (kWh); moreover, about 45 percent of the population does not have access to electricity, and the level of unmet demand in the country's power sector is significant. Increased hydro- power imports from Ethiopia, which satisfies 65 percent of Djibouti's demand, will play a significant role in boosting the country's renewable energy supply. The geothermal potential has generated particular interest in Japan, with 13 potential sites; they have already started the construction on one site near Lake Assal. The construction of the photovoltaic power station (solar farms) in Grand Bara will generate 50 MW capacity.
Djibouti has a population of about 988,000 ipeople. It is a multiethnic country. The local population grew rapidly during the latter half of the 20th century, increasing from about 69,589 in 1955 to around 869,099 by 2015. The two largest ethnic groups native to Djibouti are the Somalis, 60 percent; and the Afar, 35 percent. The Somali clan component is mainly composed of the Issa, followed by the Gadabuursi and the Isaaq. The remaining five percent of Djibouti's population primarily is comprised of Yemeni, Arabs, Ethiopians, and French and Italians. Approximately 76 percent of local residents are urban dwellers; the remainder are pastoralists.
Djibouti also hosts a number of immigrants and refugees from neighboring states, with Djibouti City nicknamed the "French Hong Kong in the Red Sea" due to its cosmopolitan urbanism. Djibouti's location on the eastern coast of Africa makes it a hub of regional migration, with Somalis, Yemenis, and Ethiopians traveling through the country enroute to the Gulf and northern Africa. Djibouti has received a massive influx of migrants from Yemen.
Djibouti is a multilingual nation The majority of local residents speak Somali and Afar as first languages. These idioms are the mother tongues of the Somali and Afar ethnic groups, respectively. Both languages belong to the larger Afro-asiatic Cushitic family. Northern Somali is the main dialect spoken in the country and in neighboring Somaliland, in contrast to Benadiri Somali which is the main dialect spoken in Somalia. There are two official languages in Djibouti: Arabic and French.
Arabic is of religious importance. In formal settings, it consists of Modern Standard Arabic. Colloquially, about 59,000 local residents speak the Ta'izzi-Adeni Arabic dialect, also known as Djibouti Arabic. French serves as a statutory national language. It was inherited from the colonial period, and is the primary language of instruction. Around 17,000 Djiboutians speak it as a first language. Immigrant languages include Omani Arabic, Amharic, and Greek.
Djibouti's population is predominantly Muslim. Islam is observed by around 94 percent of the nation's population (approximately 740,000 as of 2012), whereas the remaining 6 percent of residents are Christian. The Diocese of Djibouti serves the small local Catholic population, which it estimates numbered around 7,000 individuals in 2006.
The Djiboutian educational system was initially formulated to cater to a limited pupil base. As such, the schooling framework was largely elitist and drew considerably from the French colonial paradigm, which was ill-suited to local circumstances and needs. In the late 1990s, the Djiboutian authorities revised the national educational strategy and launched a broad-based consultative process involving administrative officials, teachers, parents, national assembly members and NGOs. The initiative identified areas in need of attention and produced concrete recommendations on how to go about improving them.
The government subsequently prepared a comprehensive reform plan aimed at modernizing the educational sector over the 2000-10 period. In August 2000, it passed an official Education Planning Act and drafted a medium-term development plan for the next five years. The fundamental academic system was significantly restructured and made compulsory; it now consists of five years of primary school and four years of middle school. Secondary schools also require a Certificate of Fundamental Education for admission. In addition, the new law introduced secondary-level vocational instruction and established university facilities in the country. As a result of the Education Planning Act and the medium-term action strategy, substantial progress has been registered throughout the educational sector. In particular, school enrollment, attendance, and retention rates have all steadily increased, with some regional variation.
From 2004 to 2008, net enrollments of girls in primary school rose by 18.6 percent; for boys, it increased 8.0 percent. Net enrollments in middle school over the same period rose by 72.4 percent for girls and 52.2 percent for boys. At the secondary level, the increase in net enrollments was 49.8 percent for girls and 56.1 percent for boys.
The Djiboutian government has especially focused on developing and improving institutional infrastructure and teaching materials, including constructing new classrooms and supplying textbooks. At the post-secondary level, emphasis has also been placed on producing qualified instructors and encouraging out-of-school youngsters to pursue vocational training. As of 2012, the literacy rate in Djibouti was estimated at 70 percent. Institutions of
higher learning in the country include the University of Djibouti.
Djiboutian attire reflects the region's hot and arid climate. When not dressed in Western clothing such as jeans and T-shirts, men typically wear the macawiis, which is a traditional sarong-like garment worn around the waist. Many nomadic people wear a loosely wrapped white cotton robe called a tobe that goes down to about the knee, with the end thrown over the shoulder (much like a Roman toga). Women typically wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester that is worn over a full-length half-slip and a bra. Married women tend to sport head-scarves referred to as shash and often cover their upper body with a shawl known as garbasaar.
Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads. Traditional Arabian garb such as the male jellabiya (jellabiyaad in Somali) and the female jilbāb is also commonly worn. For some occasions such as festivals, women may adorn themselves with specialized jewelry and head-dresses similar to those worn by the Berber tribes of the Maghreb.
A lot of Djibouti's original art is passed on and preserved orally, mainly through song. Many examples of Islamic, Ottoman, and French influences can also be noted in the local buildings, which contain plasterwork, carefully constructed motifs, and calligraphy.
Somalis have a rich musical heritage centered on traditional Somali folklore. Most Somali songs are pentatonic. That is, they only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or the Arabian Peninsula, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (laxan) and singers (codka or "voice"). Balwo is a Somali musical style centered on love themes that is popular in Djibouti.
Traditional Afar music resembles the folk music of other parts of the Horn of Africa such as Ethiopia; it also contains elements of Arabic music. The history of Djibouti is recorded in the poetry and songs of its nomadic people, and goes back thousands of years to a time when the peoples of Djibouti traded hides and skins for the perfumes and spices of ancient Egypt, India and China. Afar oral literature is also quite musical. It comes in many varieties, including songs for weddings, war, praise and boasting.
Djibouti has a long tradition of poetry. Several well-developed Somali forms of verse include the gabay, jiifto, geeraar, wiglo, 'buraanbur, beercade, afarey and guuraw. The gabay (epic poem) has the most complex length and meter, often exceeding 100 lines. It is considered the mark of poetic attainment when a young poet is able to compose such verse, and is regarded as the height of poetry. Groups of memorizers and reciters (hafidayaal) traditionally propagated the well-developed art form. Poems revolve around several main themes, including baroorodiiq (elegy), amaan (praise), jacayl (romance), guhaadin (diatribe), digasho (gloating) and guubaabo (guidance).
The baroorodiiq is composed to commemorate the death of a prominent poet or figure. The Afar are familiar with the ginnili, a kind of warrior-poet and diviner, and have a rich oral tradition of folk stories. They also have an extensive repertoire of battle songs. Additionally, Djibouti has a long tradition of Islamic literature. Among the most prominent historical works is the medieval Futuh Al-Habash by Shihāb al-Dīn, which chronicles the Adal Sultanate army's conquest of Abyssinia during the 16th century. In recent years, a number of politicians and intellectuals have also penned memoirs or reflections on the country.
Football is the most popular sport amongst Djiboutians. The country became a member of FIFA in 1994, but has only taken part in the qualifying rounds for the African Cup of Nations as well as the FIFA World Cup in the mid-2000s. In November 2007, the Djibouti national football team beat Somalia's national squad 1-0 in the qualification rounds for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, marking its first ever World Cup-related win.
Recently, the World Archery Federation has helped to implement the Djibouti Archery Federation, and an international archery training center is being created in Arta to support archery development in East Africa and Red Sea area.
Djiboutian cuisine is a mixture of Somali, Afar, Yemeni, and French cuisine, with some additional South Asian (especially Indian) culinary influences. Local dishes are commonly prepared using a lot of Middle Eastern spices, ranging from saffron to cinnamon. Grilled Yemeni fish, opened in half and often cooked in tandoori style ovens, are a local delicacy. Spicy dishes come in many variations, from the traditional Fah-fah or "Soupe Djiboutienne" (spicy boiled beef soup), to the yetakelt wet (spicy mixed vegetable stew).
Xalwo (pronounced "halwo") or halva is a popular confection eaten during festive occasions, such as Eid fetes or wedding receptions. Halva is made from sugar, corn starch, cardamon powder starch, cardamon powder, nutmeg powder, and vanilla flavor. After meals, homes are traditionally perfumed using incense (cuunsi) or frankincense (lubaan), which is prepared inside an incense burner referred to as a dabqaad.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License