From a geopolitical point of view, the development of the Berber port also plays a key role in the continuation of regional domination in neighbouring Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia became a domestic country after Eritrea`s independence in 1993, it has depended on access to Djibouti`s ports for about 95% of its imports and exports. More recently, however, Ethiopia has recorded an excellent annual GDP growth rate (largely fuelled by a steady annual increase in the volume of export freight). As such, it has sought to expand its potential commercial ports beyond its Djibouti base and to seek access from its ports to its neighbours Sudan and Kenya, both of which have wide coastlines. However, the port of Berbera is strategically the best placed. It is located on the southern outskirts of the Gulf of Aden, which for centuries has been a commercial center between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In the northwest, it is also the gateway to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. A modernized port of Berbera would allow Somaliland to challenge Djibouti`s relative monopoly on regional maritime trade, while the Berber Corridor would allow Ethiopia to export livestock and agricultural products more efficiently to important markets in the Middle East. As a result of the United Arab Emirates` closer relations with Eritrea and construction activities in the port of Assab, Ethiopian leaders feared that the uae`s attention would be drawn to Eritrea.
In October 2015, a panicked Ethiopian envoy sent senior officials to Abu Dhabi to ask the country`s leaders not to pursue the agreement with Eritrea and to focus on the rehabilitation and use of the port of Berbera (CDE, 2016). “Werqneh Gebeyehu, Ethiopia`s transport minister, said: “We are better off if the UAE invests in Somaliland rather than Eritrea,” adding: “We don`t want investment to go to Eritrea… (Somaliland Sun, 2016). Langen, P. W. (2007). The economic performance of seaports. In Wang, J. J. Wang, D.
Olivier, T. E. Notteboom – B. Slack (eds.) Ports, Cities and Global Supply Chains. Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 187-202 Does the Berbera case show that Ethiopia has established an accepted and undisputed hierarchy in the Horn of Africa? The short answer is no. But Ethiopia is no longer an emerging power, excessively limited by women. The Berbera is a friendly corridor on the territory of a flexible state for Ethiopian markets. Our attention to Ethiopia`s foreign policy towards the entire region has attempted to address a gap in the sparse literature on recent geopolitical developments in the Horn of Africa, particularly with regard to port development.
As has already been said, most of them have focused on external forces and security situations, such as the conflict in Yemen, which have triggered the engagement of external states. By focusing on Ethiopia and its targets close to it abroad, we try to avoid the all-too-frequent trap in which African states are seen as passive and without freedom of choice, as they are used by powers or regional blocs outside the continent (Cannon, 2016b; 57). However, some reservations are acceptable. First, our article pays little attention to the actions of the executive and businessmen of the Republic of Somaliland with regard to developments with the port of Berbera. An analysis of these actions, often in agreement with Addis Ababa or encouraged by Addis Ababa, as well as dissatisfaction and anger at the agreement within Somaliland, goes beyond the scope of this article and constitute a potential follow-up research project.