Facts about Djibouti

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DjiboutiThe French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977. Hassan Gouled APTIDON installed an authoritarian one-party state and proceeded to serve as president until 1999. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001 following the conclusion of a peace accord between Afar rebels and the Issa-dominated government. In 1999, Djibouti's first multi-party presidential elections resulted in the election of Ismail Omar GUELLEH; he was re-elected to a second and final term in 2005. Djibouti occupies a strategic geographic location at the mouth of the Red Sea and serves as an important transshipment location for goods entering and leaving the east African highlands. The present leadership favors close ties to France, which maintains a significant military presence in the country, but also has strong ties with the US. Djibouti hosts the only US military base in sub-Saharan Africa and is a front-line state in the global war on terrorism.

Geography of Djibouti

Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, between Eritrea and Somalia
11 30 N, 43 00 E
total: 23,000 sq km
water: 20 sq km
land: 22,980 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Land boundaries:
total: 516 km
border countries: Eritrea 109 km, Ethiopia 349 km, Somalia 58 km
314 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
desert; torrid, dry
coastal plain and plateau separated by central mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lac Assal -155 m
highest point: Moussa Ali 2,028 m
Natural resources:
geothermal areas
Natural hazards:
earthquakes; droughts; occasional cyclonic disturbances from the Indian Ocean bring heavy rains and flash floods
Environment current issues:
inadequate supplies of potable water; limited arable land; desertification; endangered species
Geography - note:
strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland; Lac Assal (Lake Assal) is the lowest point in Africa

Population of Djibouti

506,221 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 43.3% (male 105,760/female 105,068)
15-64 years: 53.3% (male 135,119/female 124,367)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 8,183/female 8,033)
Median age:
18.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
102.44 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 43.17 years
male: 41.86 years
female: 44.52 years
Fertility rate:
5.31 children born/woman
noun: Djiboutian(s)
adjective: Djiboutian
Ethnic groups:
Somali 60%, Afar 35%, French, Arab, Ethiopian, and Italian 5%
Muslim 94%, Christian 6%
French (official), Arabic (official), Somali, Afar
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.9%
male: 78%
female: 58.4% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Djibouti
former: French Territory of the Afars and Issas, French Somaliland
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
5 districts (cercles, singular - cercle); 'Ali Sabih, Dikhil, Djibouti, Obock, Tadjoura
27 June 1977 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 27 June (1977)
multiparty constitution approved by referendum 4 September 1992
Legal system:
based on French civil law system, traditional practices, and Islamic law
18 years of age; universal adult
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ismail Omar GUELLEH (since 8 May 1999)
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed Dileita DILEITA (since 4 March 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers responsible to the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 8 April 2005 (next to be held by April 2011); prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch:
unicameral Chamber of Deputies or Chambre des Deputes (65 seats; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme


The economy is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone in the Horn of Africa. Two-thirds of Djibouti's inhabitants live in the capital city; the remainder are mostly nomadic herders. Scanty rainfall limits crop production to fruits and vegetables, and most food must be imported. Djibouti provides services as both a transit port for the region and an international transshipment and refueling center. Imports and exports from landlocked neighbor Ethiopia represent 85% of port activity at Djibouti's container terminal. Djibouti has few natural resources and little industry. The nation is, therefore, heavily dependent on foreign assistance to help support its balance of payments and to finance development projects. An unemployment rate of nearly 60% continues to be a major problem. While inflation is not a concern, due to the fixed tie of the Djiboutian franc to the US dollar, the artificially high value of the Djiboutian franc adversely affects Djibouti's balance of payments. Per capita consumption dropped an estimated 35% between 1999 and 2006 because of recession, civil war, and a high population growth rate (including immigrants and refugees). Faced with a multitude of economic difficulties, the government has fallen in arrears on long-term external debt and has been struggling to meet the stipulations of foreign aid donors.

$1.738 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.5%
industry: 15.8%
services: 80.7% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
revenues: $135 million
expenditures: $182 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% 
construction, agricultural processing
fruits, vegetables; goats, sheep, camels
reexports, hides and skins, coffee (in transit)
Export partners:
Somalia 64.2%, Yemen 22.7%, Ethiopia 5% 
foods, beverages, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products
Import partners:
Saudi Arabia 20.9%, India 12.5%, Ethiopia 11.9%, China 10.5%, France 4.7%, US 4.5%, Japan 4.4% 
Djiboutian franc (DJF)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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