Two Djibouti airports planned, with Chinese funding

The tiny African nation of Djibouti measures 23,200 square kilometers and is home to about 800,000 people, but within a few years – and a little help from the Chinese – it expects to have two brand-new airport hubs large enough to handle 100,000 tonnes of cargo and 2 million passengers annually.

Located in the Horn of Africa, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti is vying for a piece of the lucrative long-haul international air traffic that has been increasing across East Africa and the Middle East in the last decade. At a dedication ceremony this week in the town of Ali-Sabieh, the nation’s President, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, kicked off construction of the first of the two hubs, located about 25 kilometers south of the capital, Djibouti City.

The proposed airport, to be called Hassan Gouled Aptidon International Airport, after Djibouti’s first president, is expected to open in 2018. It will be capable of catering for 1.5 million passengers and will have runways long enough for the Airbus 380. The second airport, to be named Ahmed Dini Ahmed International Airport, after one of the nation’s former prime ministers, is expected to open in 2016, to the north of Djibouti and will have an annual capacity of roughly 767,000 passengers per year.

With the help of funding from China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, the Djibouti government said the cost to build both airports is estimated to be nearly US$600 million, as part of a larger US$5 billion investment in industrial and seaport infrastructure. Other projects in the master plan include a direct rail link to Addis Ababa in neighboring Ethiopia, a petroleum and liquefied-natural-gas terminal, to open later this year, plus four new ports that will quadruple seafreight capacity to nearly 80 million tonnes per year.

“The investment in transport infrastructure in Djibouti will act as a catalyst for economic growth and development,” said Moussa Ahmed Hassan, Djibouti’s Minister for Equipment and Transport. “The airports form part of the major transport infrastructure investment program, enabling the country to build on its position as a key regional trade hub.”

The country’s current Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport, located near the capital, handles about 250,000 passengers each year and is served by all-cargo carrier Coyne Airways and Etihad Cargo.

According to a recent forecast by the World Bank, Djibouti’s economy should grow by 6.5 percent this year.