Despite its immense economic potential, owing to its strategic location, Djibouti risks becoming an island of poverty in a sea of wealth as investors make the most of a conducive atmosphere promoted by respective governments in the Horn of Africa region.
The Horn of Africa, with an estimated population of over 160 million people, is perched next to the Middle East and along the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes for goods and oil from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal.
Synonymous with volatility yesteryear, the region is undergoing a makeover and is in the cusp of fulfilling its potential as the next frontier of economic development, thanks to the emergence of liberal governments.
In Ethiopia, since assuming power and in April this year on a campaign premised on rediscovering democracy and national reconciliation, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken a series of fundamental steps to liberalise the economy. Key to the reforms includes privatising state entities.
In a major policy shift from the stance from the previous autocratic regime, investors can buy minority stakes in sectors previously regarded out of bounds to private enterprise.
Direct foreign investment has been secured, most prominently the US$3 billion economic aid package granted by the United Arab Emirates, following a visit in June by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Together with neighbouring Somalia, Ethiopia has discussed plans to abolish trade barriers as part of efforts to create a single market in the Horn of Africa region.
Ahmed, in a meeting in Mogadishu with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo (in power since 2017), disclosed plans to invest in a number of Somalian ports and in road networks to link the two countries and expand trade.
Ethiopia has established peace with Eritrea after over a decade of hostilities. They have reopened border crossings, restoring direct road transport for the first time in two decades.
The formal opening of the frontier paves the way for cross-border trade between the former foes.
Eritrea is considering building a port on its Red Sea coastline, challenging Djibouti’s position as host to key port infrastructure at one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
Berbera (in Somalia), Mombasa (Kenya) and Port Sudan are attracting investments and threatening Djibouti’s monopoly.
Eritrea and Somalia have also agreed to restore diplomatic relations, in another development buoying confidence in the Horn of Africa’s investment and trade prospects.
The probable lifting of sanctions against Eritrea is set to pave way for economic integration of the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia are spearheading tripartite plans to strengthen the economic and security stability of the region.
Nikki Haley, President of the Security Council, a principal organ of the United Nations (UN), welcomed the aforementioned breakthroughs as representing “a historic and significant milestone with far-reaching positive consequences for the Horn of Africa and beyond.”
However, in contrast to the prevailing positive sentiment sweeping across the region, Djibouti is increasingly emerging a pariah state.
Strongman Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, president since 1999 after succeeding his uncle- Hassan Gouled Aptidon- who ruled since independence from France in 1977, is leading a regime ever more hostile to investment, raising concerns it is lagging behind its neighbors and weighing down prospects of regional economic development.
This past weekend, Guelleh’s defiance of court orders against the stripping Dubai firm, DP World, of its 50-year contract to manage Djibouti’s container port was back in the spotlight, months after the tiny country disregarded a verdict on the mater.
In February, authorities in Djibouti abruptly cancelled DP World’s contract to run the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT) and seized its facilities, which the port operator had designed, built and operated.
The High Court of England and Wales in London has continued the injunction, first made on August 31, prohibiting the national port company, Port de Djibouti, from interfering with the management of the Doraleh Container Terminal.
DP World has confirmed it would continue pursuing legal means to defend its rights as shareholder and concessionaire in the terminal.
“This is yet another (verdict) in a series of rulings, all in favour of DP World, that demonstrate Djibouti’s continuing disregard for the rule of law,” said a DP spokesperson.
The company underlined its belief that companies intending to operate, or already operating in the country, needed to seriously consider dealings with Guelleh’s beleaguered government.
“By its continued autocracy and defiance to court rulings, Djibouti is throwing spanners into the works of the region realising its potential as a global economic hub,” said Radhiya Ibrahim, Horn of Africa socio-political commentator.
Government insisted it had decided to nationalise DP World’s stake to “protect the fundamental interests of the nation and the legitimate interests of its partners.”
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), DCT has been a major catalyst for growth.
Pessimistic projections of the country’s economic prospects coincide with rampant poverty in Djibouti, despite its strategic position in of the busiest shipping lanes.
Devastating outbreaks of waterborne diseases are exacerbating matters.
The hosting of foreign military bases is an important part of Djibouti’s economy. This is due to its strategic location to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea and controls the approaches to the Suez Canal.
The United States, France and Japan pay an estimated $123 million, combines, for their military bases in the tiny country.
In addition to revenues earned from military base rent, Djibouti has in the past two years accepted some credit loans running up to $1,4 billion, more than 75 percent of its gross domestic product, from China.
With public and publicly guaranteed debt more than doubling to reach 87 percent of GDP in 2017, there are concerns over the country’s ability to service the arrears.
– CAJ News
Read more on CAJ News: http://cajnewsafrica.com/?p=28278
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of CAJ News Africa.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.