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Chinese-built free trade zone opens in Djibouti

BBC World Service

The first phase of a Chinese-built Free Trade Zone - billed as Africa's largest - opens today in Djibouti.

The nearly 50 sq km (31 sq miles) zone will house manufacturing and warehouse facilities, an export-processing area and a services centre.

It's expected to handle trade worth $7bn (£5.3bn) within two years, and create 15,000 jobs when complete.

With a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti already handles most imports for neighbouring Ethiopia, and aims to become a gateway to South Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region.

A map showing the location of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The zone forms part of China's new chain of infrastructure investments in 60 countries. China already has a military base in Djibouti, as does the United States.

European Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) anti-piracy reconaissance plane at the French military base in Djibouti

The road to Djibouti's presidential election on 8 April has been filled with tension and opposition claims of foul play. But with no strong challenger, incumbent President Ismail Omar Guelleh is widely expected to win.

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