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The tiny nation of Djibouti will begin construction of a Chinese backed project which would constitute Africa’s largest free trade zone.
The construction of the project was formally launched by President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, after plans for the 19-square mile free trade zone were signed and agreed in March 2016.
Chinese investors in the zone aim to expand trade routes across the continent with a number of infrastructure initiatives, making up part of the One Belt, One Road scheme.
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority said: “[Djibouti] aims to become a gateway not only to Ethiopia but to South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region.
“This new free zone will be the country’s first employment reservoir, with more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs created.”
The zone will be built by Dalian Port Corporation Limited (HKG:2880) and operated by The Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority and China Merchants Holdings (HKG:0144), in a joint venture.
Chinese companies will also build two new airports in Djibouti and expand the Doraleh Multipurpose Port with a combined cost of close to US$1.2 billion.
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