The world market always demands faster and cheaper ways for the circulation of commodities. When it comes to landlocked territories and bulk goods, road and railway corridors to the sea are crucial for lowering costs, if not for allowing the possibility of exports at all.
A seminar held at the Centre for African Studies of Porto University in Portugal saw the Senior Advisor to the President on European Affairs Dr. Jama Musse Jama giving a lecture on Somaliland’s key role in Berbera Corridor, which would see it incorporated into the publication of the symposium at the end of the conference.
Trade in the Horn of Africa depends on two seaside ports. Somaliland relies exclusively on the Berbera port. Ethiopia, cut from the sea since the Eritrea’s independence in 1993, relies so far mainly on the Djibouti connection. Still, the Ethiopian booming industry – much of it in partnership with foreign capital – needs to lessen its dependence on a sole way out (in 2016 more than 95% of Ethiopia’s external trade was through Djibouti). Addis Ababa wants to increase the use of the Berbera Corridor, a 937 kilometres asphalt road up to this deep-water port, in which Ethiopia is considered to hold 19% of the joint venture stock company operating the hub.
But these two ports tale is far from being a local issue. Berbera is a Dubai Ports World concession (in which the UK development finance agency CDC Group plagued $320M investment in Berbera), China has been investing heavily in Ethiopia and the major powers still consider the Red Sea as their “vital” interests. As usual, flags follow the trade: U.S., Chinese, Turkish and even UAE military bases are installed in the region. If there were doubts on the increasing importance of the Indian Ocean in the coming imperialist struggles, the political puzzle of the Berbera Corridor would certainly remove them.
The Conference wants to debate the geopolitical and historical issues of this key Red Sea gate. It is an open call to all contributors aiming to critically discuss what was and is at stake in this part of the world: the role of foreign powers and the trends of political and economic paths developing in the region.
A publication will come out of this Seminar: a special file on Africana Studia on the Berbera Corridor. This will include part of the contributions presented at the Conference and possibly others not presented as papers.
A second chapter of the Conference will be – “So it is our wish”– the establishment of a research network in the Red Sea area. This will be an even more thrilling defy if we manage to connect European and African scientific institutions, including the Red Sea area colleagues, part of them already present in the Organizing Board of this Seminar.
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