U.S. Relations With Djibouti

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
August 1, 2016

More information about Djibouti is available on the Djibouti Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


The United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Djibouti in 1977, following its independence from France, and had consular representation in the former colony of French Somaliland from 1929 forward.    Djibouti is a republic with a parliament and executive branch led by the President who is elected every five years.  The National Assembly is the country’s legislature, consisting of 65 members also elected every five years.

Djibouti is strategically located in the Horn of Africa and is a key U.S. partner on security, regional stability, and humanitarian efforts across the region.  The Djiboutian government has been supportive of U.S. interests and proactively promotes countering violent extremism.  Djibouti hosts the only enduring U.S. military presence in Africa at Camp Lemonnier, established by formal agreement in 2003.  A bilateral agreement with the Government of Djibouti also provides the United States with access to Djibouti’s port facilities and airport. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace program maintains a warehouse for pre-positioned food assistance commodities in Djibouti, serving as a hub for rapid response in parts of Africa and Asia. International Broadcasting Bureau facilities in Djibouti transmit Arabic-language programming, and Voice of America Somali Service broadcasts to the Horn and the Arabian Peninsula.

U.S. Assistance to Djibouti

Djibouti’s economic growth is hindered by a rapidly expanding workforce that is poorly matched to the economic needs of the country, resulting in high unemployment, and a lack of qualified applicants for jobs in certain sectors. Other obstacles to growth include: high electricity costs and chronic water shortages, poor health indicators, food insecurity, and governance challenges.  U.S. assistance supports education, workforce development, renewable energy and civil society development.

U.S. assistance supports Ministry of Education efforts to improve the overall quality of primary schooling across the country.  Education assistance supports training teachers, improving primary level reading, and increasing access to education, especially for girls. In the area of health, assistance focuses on the risks associated with Djibouti’s position as a migratory pathway and critical cross-border trade route. The U.S., as the largest donor to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, is focused on HIV/AIDS prevention.  In addition to HIV/AIDS, the U.S. supports the Djiboutian Ministry’s efforts to treat and prevent malaria and polio.

One of the key goals shared by the Governments of Djibouti and the United States is to increase employment in the Djiboutian workforce.  The U.S. is focused on improving the quality of vocational workforce readiness programs, facilitating sustainable ties between vocational education centers and employment providers, and strengthening job placement and retention services. 

The American embassy is working closely with Djiboutian civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve their capacity to fulfil their goals, better represent their constituencies and to further engage with the Government of Djibouti to deliver essential services to Djiboutian citizens.  An important component of this assistance includes support to the management, financing and operations of CSOs to improve their sustainability and impact. 

In 2016, Djibouti sent nine Mandela Washington Fellows to the United States as part of President Obama’s flagship program, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), cementing strong U.S. - Djibouti civil society relations. 

Under the Power Africa initiative, U.S. assistance focuses on improving the environment for private sector investment in renewable and traditional power generation, including specialized support to geothermal development.  The initiative funds an advisor on legal transactions, who is embedded directly with the Government of Djibouti to provide support on all Power Africa initiatives in Djibouti including on reforms surrounding the Independent Power Producer law that was enacted in 2015.

Assistance through the State Department’s Food for Peace programing also responds to ongoing food insecurity concerns in rural Djibouti exacerbated each year by drought and climate change. The United Nations World Food Program is the U.S.’s single largest food security partner in Djibouti, distributing approximately $4 million in food assistance and other services each year.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Djibouti is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In 2009, a joint venture between Dubai Ports World and the Government of Djibouti led to the construction of a modern container terminal, which enabled the growth of the logistics and services sector.  Before 2020, Djibouti is expected to finish several major infrastructure projects, including a second modern port facility  --  the Doraleh Multipurpose Port - a new electrified railroad connecting Djibouti City and Addis Ababa, a highway connecting northern Djibouti with the Ethiopian border, a potash export terminal in Tadjourah, and a salt export terminal in Goubet.  These projects are part of the Government of Djibouti’s ambitious plan to turn Djibouti into a major commercial and shipping hub for East Africa.  U.S. exports to Djibouti include vegetable oil, wheat, machinery, and foodstuffs. U.S. imports typically transit Djibouti from origin countries farther inland, like Ethiopia. These imports include coffee, vegetables perfumery and cosmetics. Additionally, Djibouti’s port serves landlocked Ethiopia which receives substantial U.S. food aid. The United States has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which Djibouti is a member.

Djibouti's Membership in International Organizations

Djibouti and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Djibouti is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti is Thomas Kelly; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Djibouti maintains an embassy in the United States at Suite 515, 1156 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005, (tel. 202-331-0270).

More information about Djibouti is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Djibouti Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Djibouti Page
U.S. Embassy: Djibouti
USAID Djibouti Page
History of U.S. Relations With Djibouti
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Travel and Business Information