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China builds 1st military post in Africa, a sign of a global power policy shift

China has begun construction for a military post at a key location in eastern Africa, right next door to a US one. A 90-acre plot which is due for completion next year, the the naval outpost is expected to feature weapons stores, ship and helicopter maintenance facilities and possibly a small contingent of Chinese marines or special forces, according to foreign officers and experts monitoring its development.

China has invested huge amounts in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies — wants to be able to protect its interests and investments throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

China’s investment stock in Africa surpassed $30 billion in 2014 — 60 times more than 2000 levels — while over a million Chinese are thought to have migrated to the continent to seek out economic opportunities. For the most part the country has remained mum on its developments, Djibouti’s foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, in an interview to the Financial Times in March, for the first time spelt out the likely scale of China’s presence in the small, strategically important country that sits at the entryof Bab el-Mandeb Straits that leads to the Suez Canal.

Tom Kelly, US ambassador to Djibouti, told the FT that managing the existence of both a US and a Chinese base in the same country “will be a challenge for all involved”. Concerns range from eavesdropping on activities at the US base, much of whose wide-ranging anti-terror operations are covert, to fears China may develop a string of bases to give them strategic control over waterways leading into Europe.

Djibouti's foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf
Djibouti’s foreign minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf

A former French colony, Djibouti was once known for little more than French legionnaires, burning heat and the sordid nightlife of its seaside capital.

But the tiny nation has turned itself into a geostrategic linchpin with political clout far outstripping its size and population of just 900,000.

China is also set to lend more than $1bn at non-concessional rates for other infrastructure projects to help transform Djibouti’s $1.5bn economy, including a water pipeline and a new railway link with landlocked, populous Ethiopia.
Source: World Bulletin

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