Ethiopia alternates to Kenya’s port to alleviate Djibouti dependency

Ethiopia plans to start using Port Lamu and Mombasa within a few months’ time as part of its increase of port proportion and alternative sea outlet.
“Ethiopia’s cost of land transport per kilometer is the cheapest when compared to neighboring countries. However the distance from port to destination areas is a challenge in staying competitive in the international market,” stated Dagmawit Moges, Minister of Transport and Logistics on her latest appearance at the Urban Infrastructure and Transport Standing Affairs Standing Committee of the parliament, adding that using alternative ports could solve this. “We have to stop depending on one port, as the country is big.”

According to Eng. Yehualashet Jemere Director General of Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA), the ministry is preparing commandments on the utilization of port Mombasa to start operation with in short period of time, additional to having continued discussions with the government.
As Dagmawit said, Ethiopia will start using these ports within few months and it will be included in the performance of the budget year report.
Similarly, Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to provide a plot for the port development. In addition to this Ethiopia has also been working with Kenya and Eritrea in developing port facilities.

ccording to the six month performance report of the transport and logistics ministry, for the first time the volume of Ethiopia cargo transaction through the Djibouti port has reduced to 83.9 percent in the past six month, that is the first half of the fiscal year.
“It is one success in our performance,” said the minister.
I previous years more than 98 percent of total import export trade of the country was through Djibouti main port.
Ethiopia managed 17 million metric tons of import export cargo in the last six month. Becoming operational just one year ago, Tadjoura port takes ten percent of cargo transaction or 731,338tons of cargo while Berbera port’s share increased to 5.9 percent.

As the minister said, minimizing logistic cost is one of the benefits of alternative ports. Ethiopia in the past six months has managed to save up to 535 million birr.
Ethiopia is one of the 16 land locked countries in Africa paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually for port service.
In the past Ethiopia had been using Eritrea’s port of Assab; the closest port to the country however that was closed after the two neighbors fought a two year long war in 1998 that killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Ethiopia, which is the biggest population without a sea outlet in the world, mainly uses ports in Djibouti which are connected by three roads and a railway network for cargo import. In the last twenty years Ethiopia had been using ports at Djibouti which has undertaken massive logistics developments to accommodate Ethiopia’s growing demand.
Ethiopia is currently looking for alternative sea ports in neighboring countries of Sudan, Kenya and Somalia to ease increasing dependency in Djibouti.
Ministry of Transport and Logistics expressed that ownership and management of seaport will be determined by the ten year transport plan. The transport sector development in general is expected to consume 3.2 trillion birr or USD 75 billion in the coming decade, while the sector that is mostly preserved for public and domestic investors will expand its playground to foreign investors in different schemes.

Wishful thinking.

Port Mombasa is at 85% capacity already and severely congested.

Port Lamu is also almost 2x as far away from Ethiopia’s population centres as Djibouti and Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Berbera and not Lamu is therefore the obvious alternative to Djibouti Port.


By Addis Insight

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has announced that the Ethiopian government is exploring all options to secure a port for the country, including negotiation, “give and take,” and force.

In a meeting with investors and businessmen on Thursday, Abiy said that Ethiopia’s current port costs are unsustainable, and that the country must have its own port to reduce its reliance on neighboring countries.

The Prime Minister said that the government has already started negotiations with Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somaliland to secure port access. In the case of Eritrea, the government has proposed to give 30% of Ethiopian Airlines to the Eritrean government in exchange for port access.

Abiy said that the government is also considering the use of force to secure a port, but that this would be a last resort.

“We want to get a port through peaceful means, but if that fails, we will use force,” Abiy said.

The Prime Minister’s announcement comes as Ethiopia is facing increasing pressure from the international community to resolve its border dispute with Eritrea. The two countries fought a war from 1998 to 2000, and the border has been closed since then.

Abiy’s announcement is seen as a sign that the Ethiopian government is serious about securing a port, and that it is willing to take steps that could lead to conflict.


Ethiopia is a landlocked country in East Africa. The country has a population of over 120 million people, and its economy is growing rapidly. However, Ethiopia’s lack of a port has been a major obstacle to its economic development.

Ethiopia currently relies on the ports of Djibouti and Somaliland to import and export goods. However, these ports are expensive to use, and they are often congested.

The Ethiopian government has been trying to secure a port for the country for many years. However, the border dispute with Eritrea has made it difficult to reach an agreement.

The Future

It is unclear what the future holds for Ethiopia’s port access. The government’s negotiations with Eritrea could succeed, and the two countries could reach an agreement on the use of the Eritrean ports.

However, it is also possible that the negotiations will fail, and that Ethiopia will be forced to use force to secure a port.

The outcome of the negotiations will have a major impact on Ethiopia’s economy and its relations with its neighbors.

Source: Addis Insight

Abiye’s comments in Oromo Capital.

Ethiopia renews its search for a port outlet. In the recently concluded PP cadre convention in Adama, Oromia, PM Abiy tabled three options for a sea outlet for his landlocked 120-million-strong country:

  1. Retake/use Assab port peacefully or by other means including force.
  2. Use port of Zaila in Somalia by offering her in exchange GERD electricity and/or 20% share of Ethiopian airlines.
  3. Djibouti - he said it is unacceptable for Ethiopia to rent Djibouti port while China and others coming from afar use it as a military base.

Take every statement from PM Abiy of Ethiopia seriously.

October 18, 2023

Djibouti has signaled its willingness to help address Ethiopia’s needs for access to a critical Red Sea port, pointing to the East African nation’s existing hospitality towards Ethiopia’s navy as evidence of its open and cooperative approach. According to a report by Bloomberg, Djiboutian officials stated the country is ready to assist Ethiopia in securing use of a vital port, noting it already hosts units of the Ethiopian naval forces within its borders.

The news comes in the wake of Somalia’s rejection of Ethiopia’s appeal for negotiations regarding port access.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently voiced his apprehension, warning that the lack of direct harbor access poses a potential threat of future conflicts. Abiy emphasized the need to address this issue promptly to ensure regional stability. Following Eritrea’s independence in 1993, Ethiopia lost its direct sea access after a grueling three-decade war.

While Somalia remains committed to promoting peace, security, trade, and integration, it firmly declined to grant access to a strategic asset like a port, according to Ali Omar, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a text message. Omar stressed that Somalia’s constitution enshrines the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, leaving no room for discussion.

During a televised lecture on October 13th, Abiy asserted Ethiopia’s “natural rights” to have direct access to the Red Sea. He warned that any denial of these rights would undermine fairness and justice. In a possible solution, Abiy suggested that his government could offer shares in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in exchange for similar stakes in ports of neighboring countries.

“We will fight,” Abiy said.

In response, Eritrea called the debate over Ethiopia’s renewed interest to get an access to the sea “excessive,” causing bewilderment among concerned observers.

Alexis Mohamed, a senior adviser to Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh, told Bloomberg that Abiy’s stance has been long-standing but is now being expressed more assertively.

Mohamed stated that Djibouti would patiently wait for Ethiopia to propose a peaceful means of accessing the Red Sea. He emphasized Djibouti’s longstanding openness to fostering positive relations with neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia.

Mohamed also highlighted Djibouti’s willingness to accommodate Ethiopia’s navy, further indicating its cooperative approach.