Djiboutian President Ismail Guelleh pledged to focus on developing workers’ skills during what he said will be his final term, aiming to transform one of Africa’s smallest countries into a Red Sea hub.
“We will opt for targeted training, tailored for the real needs of our economy both nationally and regionally,” Guelleh said in a speech today at his inauguration in the capital, Djibouti. “Our aim is to eventually make Djibouti a regional business platform, combining logistics, industry and finance.”
Djibouti, host to the only U.S. military base in Africa, has a $982 million economy with fewer than a million people that relies on services related to its strategic location on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, according to the U.S. State Department. The nation’s port provides the only access to the sea for neighboring Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation.
Djibouti’s economy has grown an average of 5 percent annually over the past five years, the International Monetary Fund says. The expansion has been spurred by projects including a new container terminal, built by DP World Ltd. and the government, and Nakheel PJSC’s construction of a five-star hotel that boosted tourism. Growth is expected to be 4.8 percent this year and 5.7 percent in 2012, according to the IMF’s website.
Reorganization of Djibouti’s education system will be combined with an economic strategy that will “develop new unexploited areas such as small industries and the maritime economy,” Guelleh said, without providing details.
Guelleh has led Djibouti since 1999. He succeeded his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who was the country’s first president after it gained independence from France in 1977. In March 2010, Guelleh amended the constitution to allow him to extend his rule by two more six-year terms.
In April, Guelleh won 81 percent of the vote in a presidential election boycotted by opposition parties. Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, the only other candidate, obtained 19 percent. An international team of observers that included officials from the African Union and the League of Arab States declared the vote “free and democratic.”
The 63-year-old leader said he was taking his oath of office today for the “third and final time.”
Among dignitaries at his inauguration was Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed also attended the ceremony.