Addis Ababa — the joint port development initiative proposed by Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed during his first foreign visit to Djibouti is not moving at the desired pace.
In line with his economic integration vision of the Horn of Africa, the prime minster had secured agreement from the government of Djibouti for the development of a port in Djibouti 7 months ago.
The development is aimed at bridging critical infrastructure gaps through the development of economic corridors to promote import-export of Ethiopia.
However, the port development activity has not yet shown progress after the share agreement has been reached between the two countries.
Djibouti Port Authority President, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, told ENA that Ethiopia and Djibouti did agree to appoint an expertise team from both sides to develop the agreement.
Nevertheless, he added, "Since last time we have not seen any progress. The two governments are supposed to appoint expertise team from both sides to finalize this issue. Yet they have not yet nominated (experts)."
Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA) General Manager, Mekonnen Abera stated that in order "to transform the port development agreement that has been reached between Ethiopia and Djibouti, the government of Ethiopia is undertaking technical research on the possible ways of developing the port jointly."
The technical research focuses on identifying the potential areas for partnership in order to develop a port, the general manager added.
Ethiopia, therefore, needs to devise sound policy and strategy that can be implemented to achieve its goal in port development, beyond postulation.
Mekonnen stressed that the interest of Ethiopia in the development of the port is not profit as such, but creating strong logistics system that can contribute to the national economy.
Moreover, it helps to improve transportation, dry ports and custom services, on top of stabilizing the recurrent port service price increment. Thus, it will improve Ethiopia's import-export trade competitiveness, he elaborated.
Ethiopian importer and exporter, Seged Gebru, agrees that the involvement of Ethiopia in the development of ports will help the country to have a say in decision-making of price for port services. This in turn can have a trickledown effect on the market stability of the country.
"The move of the Ethiopian government to get involved in port development activities is of course acceptable and very encouraging under any circumstances, save the delay," he noted.
Head of the international logistics and freight operator Massida Group, Samantar Hagi Ali said Ethiopia's presence in port development in Djibouti is crucial to make the payment for port services reasonable.
"Ethiopia is very important for Djibouti since all the cargos coming to Ethiopia are through Djibouti. So, it's very important to make the cost of port service lower as it is now expensive; and to also facilitate cooperation between the two countries in terms of customs," he stated.
Ethiopia uses mono-corridor for 97 percent of its import-export sector Djibouti, it was learned.
Being a landlocked country, it has also been purchasing port services from neighboring countries and has signed several port operation agreements with neighboring Kenya, Sudan, and recently with Eritrea.