By Nizar Manek
Thursday May 3, 2018
Ethiopia and Djibouti agreed to swap stakes in strategic public enterprises including airlines, ports and telecommunications companies, as the Horn of Africa neighbors pursue deeper economic integration.
The deal would include exchanges of shares in Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise, Africa’s biggest carrier by revenue, Djiboutian Finance Minister Ilyas Dawaleh said in an interview. Shareholdings in companies such as the Doraleh Container Terminal and in a new oil terminal, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp. and Djibouti Telecom SA will also be swapped, he said.
While the deal has been politically “endorsed,” the two countries will form a committee to work out the details, Dawaleh said by phone April 30. Ethiopian Information Minister Ahmed Shide confirmed the agreement in a text message.
The pact came as Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, made his first foreign visit at the weekend to Djibouti, the tiny state located where the Indian Ocean meets the Red Sea and that’s become a strategic hub for the U.S. and China. Landlocked Ethiopia -- which the International Monetary Fund ranks as the fastest-growing economy on the continent -- is trying to boost its export-oriented manufacturing, making it reliant on neighboring nations with ports.
Dawaleh said Abiy told Djiboutian officials that both countries should start referring to their state-owned enterprises as belonging to all, rather than one nation.
Abiy said in a statement on his Facebook page that officials from both countries “underlined the importance of working towards the realization of complete economic integration of the two economies.” He didn’t elaborate.