For seven years now, a piece of land that was gifted to Rwanda by the government of Djibouti remains unused.
This land is located near the large Autonomous Port of Djibouti and the Dubai World International Port, which enjoys direct access to the coastline on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
This project would also see Rwandan traders have access to markets in other hinterland countries due to the ease in manufacturing, shipment and storage of goods.
Now think about it for a minute. In almost a decade, we have failed to find a productive use for 60 hectares of land that was freely given by a friendly country.
Rwandan laws would not allow for such a delay to happen. That is to say, if this land was in Kigali, the government would have repossessed it already on grounds that it is idle and not being put to good use.
For a country that is landlocked, one would assume that such opportunities would be exploited to lessen the effects of having no direct access to a seaway.
The land – a gesture of friendship from the Djibouti government – was signed off as a gift that would be turned into a dry port to enable our exports to get closer to see at a cheaper cost.
Reciprocity was observed; Rwanda also signed off 10 hectares of the Kigali Special Economic Zone to the government of Djibouti.
Whereas the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority last year signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to commence works on its portion at the Special Economic Zone, no similar efforts have been seen taking place for Rwanda’s land in Djibouti.
It would be a shame if Djibouti utilised its land before we did. Unlike them, who pretty much have easier access to markets due to their access to the sea, we desperately need all possible means to overcome our challenges of being landlocked.
It is even plausible to argue that they don’t need the 10 hectares of the land we gave them as much as we need the 60 hectares of land that they gave us.
A Rwandan dry port in a country like Djibouti would importantly provide much-needed access to new markets in the eastern and northern parts of Africa.
It would also offer services for our exports including handling, temporary storage of containers, as well as cold room facilities for horticultural exports to the world.
When President Paul Kagame last visited Djibouti in 2018, there was a lot of talk from pretty much every sector in Rwanda about how this land is primed to benefit the country’s exports and private sector by being a much needed connecting dry port to the sea.
The public was even told at the time that several bids had come from players in the private sector to develop it, but since then, no concrete or serious plan has been unveiled.
Under the coronavirus pandemic, Rwandan traders have found it extremely hard to export goods.
One can only imagine how useful a dry port in Djibouti would have been under such a distressful time.