Demographics of Djibouti

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Djibouti, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Over half of the Republic of Djibouti's inhabitants (totalling well over 700,000) reside in the capital city. The population is divided between the Somalis (predominantly of the Issa clan, along with Gadabuursi and Isaaq representation) and the Afar or Danakil, divided into the `noble' Asaimara (Red) clans and commoner Asdoimara (White) clans. All are Cushitic-speaking peoples, and nearly all are Muslim. Among the 15,000 foreigners residing in Djibouti, the French are the most numerous. Among the French are 3,200 troops. There is also a sizable Arab population living in Djibouti, which constitutes about 5 percent of the population.

The ethnic divide between the Issa and the Afar dominates the social and political landscapes. It is the cause of political hostilities and the root of what some at one time called Djibouti's 'boiling cauldron.' In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a renewed effort to grow a "greater Afar" nation that led many to believe that the cauldron would boil over. Ultimately, the conflict abated without significant regime upheaval. In the political sphere there have been attempts at power sharing to try to quell the conflict, though the political dominance of the Issa continues to be a source of Afar resentment and periodic unrest. In the social sphere, the divide looms large.

Djibouti has few natural resources to offer beyond low profit-yielding salt. The arid soils provide little agricultural opportunity, there is little or no mineral wealth, and there is no oil known off the coast. The people, while more educated than many of their regional counterparts, are not well trained enough to offer international business skills. Infrastructure does not provide the requirements for attracting significant international business. Djibouti's main advantages have been its strategic position. It has a vibrant port in a region of large land-locked country. Since the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict Djibouti has profited by providing Ethiopia an alternative to the Eritrean port. As a neighbor to Somalia and bearing a large Somali population, Djibouti has seen its interest involved in the Somali conflict, most notably hosting peace talks in Spring 2000.

In terms of health and welfare, the average life expectancy in Djibouti is 43.1 years of age. The infant mortality rate is 104.13 deaths per 1000 live births. The HIV/AIDs infection rate is lower than many other African countries at only 2.9 percent. About 67.9 percent of the population is literate.

A notable measure of human development is the Human Development Index (HDI), which is formulated by the United Nations Development Program. The HDI is a composite of several indicators, which measure a country's achievements in three main arenas of human development: longevity, knowledge and education, as well as economic standard of living. The HDI places Djibouti in the low human development category, at 150th place.

Note: Although the concept of human development is complicated and cannot be properly captured by values and indices, the HDI, which is calculated and updated annually, offers a wide-ranging assessment of human development in certain countries, not based solely upon traditional economic and financial indicators.


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