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African Journey - Part 6

South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti

Part 6 of our journey sees us switching our attention to the “Horn of Africa”. We are in South Sudan which is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. It gained independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, making it the most recent sovereign state with widespread recognition. Its capital and largest city is Juba. As of 2018, South Sudan ranks third lowest in the latest UN World Happiness Report, second lowest on the Global Peace Index, and has the third highest score on the American Fund for Peace's Fragile States Index.

South Sudan

South Sudan has a population of approximately 12 million (UN estimate) and a predominantly rural, subsistence economy. This region has been negatively affected by war for all but 10 of the years since 1956, resulting in serious neglect, lack of infrastructure development, and major destruction and displacement.

The country's economy, as in many other developing countries, is heavily dependent on agriculture. The oilfields in the south have been significant to the economy since the latter part of the 20th century. South Sudan has the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa.

South Sudan has a climate similar to an Equatorial or tropical climate, characterised by a rainy season of high humidity and large amounts of rainfall followed by a drier season. The temperature on average is always high with July being the coolest month with an average temperatures falling between 20 and 30 °C and March being the warmest month with average temperatures ranging from 23 to 37 °C.

The most rainfall is seen between May and October, but the rainy season can commence in April and extend until November. On average May is the wettest month.


Our journey continues on into Ethiopia with the help of a Hiace bus

Hiace Minibus

This is another Toyota model with a long and outstanding history, the Hiace, now in its 5th generation, has a worldwide reputation for reliability and endurance. The Hiace Commuter Bus continues to be the best solution for a medium-sized vehicle capable of transporting up to 15 people in safety and in comfort. It is also the model of choice for a number of conversions the most popular of which is the Hiace Ambulance.

Hiace video

Typically the Hiace is the vehicle of choice for local transport and taxis in all the major towns and cities of Ethiopia. The distinctive colouring of these vehicles make them easy to spot on busy roads and interchanges.

As can be seen from the picture, these vehicles rack up many thousands of miles of service but are still on the road providing value for money and incredible vehicle longevity.

As previously mentioned, it is a vehicle which lends itself to conversion work. By removing the rear seats there is ample room to convert into a mainly urban use ambulance

Hiace Ambulance Conversion

as well as many other uses like mobile laboratory and prisoner transportation van.

TGS Conversions

As well as the above, we would always recommend our Vehicle Emergency Package (VEP). With our vehicle emergency package, you will be well equipped to confront the challenges you will face when dealing with the unforeseen circumstances in situations such as a tyre puncture, a small cut or grase, a discharged vehicle battery, etc. Additionally, a 15% discount is applicable to all items in this package when purchased together.

Ethiopia has over 102 million inhabitants. It is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi) which is about 5 times the size of the United Kingdom. Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.

Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond.

Ethiopia is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests, and numerous rivers, and the world's hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, it is a founding member of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa.

Exports from Ethiopia in a recent financial year totaled US$1.4 billion. The country produces more coffee than any other nation on the continent. Coffee provides a livelihood for close to 15 million Ethiopians, 16% of the population.


Travelling over 650 miles north from Addis Ababa to Asmara in Eritrea, the roads are good and such a journey should take around 11-12 hours.

A peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea was signed on 8 July 2018. The next day, they signed a joint declaration formally ending the Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict.

Asmara is the capital and most populous city of Eritrea, in the country's Central Region. It sits at an elevation of 2,325 metres, making it the sixth highest capital in the world by altitude. Eritrea is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The name Eritrea is based on the Greek name for the Red Sea, which was first adopted for Italian Eritrea in 1890.

It is hard to avoid the Italian colonial influence in Eritrea even today which is especially characterised by the architecture which after 1935 was greatly improved to become a "modernist Art Deco city" (in 2017 has been declared a "UNESCO World City Heritage"), featuring eclectic and rationalist built forms, well-defined open spaces, and public and private buildings, including cinemas, shops, banks, religious structures, public and private offices, industrial facilities, and residences. The Italians designed more than 400 buildings in a construction boom. These included art deco masterpieces like the world famous Fiat Tagliero Building and the Cinema Impero.

Eritrean climate varies on the basis of seasonal and altitudinal differences. Based on variations in temperature Eritrea can be broadly divided into three major climate zones: a temperate zone, a subtropical climate zone and a tropical climate zone.

Eritrea can be divided into three major climate zones : the central highlands, the coastal region, and the western lowlands. Each has a different climate pattern. According to Köppen climate classification, Eritrea has either a hot semi-arid climate or a hot desert climate, although temperatures are much moderated at the highest elevations.

The economy of Eritrea has experienced considerable growth in recent years. A big reason for this has been the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mine and the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa.

Worker remittances from abroad are estimated to account for 32% of gross domestic product. Eritrea has an extensive amount of resources such as copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash. 80% of the Eritrean workforce are employed in agriculture.

The journey south again from Asmara to Djibouti will cover almost 550 miles. Djibouti) is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Djibouti occupies a total area of 23,200 km2. The state of Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of just under 1 million inhabitants (the smallest in mainland Africa). French and Arabic are the country's two official languages. About 94% of residents adhere to Islam, which is the official religion and has been predominant in the region for more than a thousand years.

Djibouti is strategically located near some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. A burgeoning commercial hub, the nation is the site of various foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonnier. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional body also has its headquarters in Djibouti City.

Djibouti's economy is largely concentrated in the service sector. Commercial activities revolve around the country's free trade policies and strategic location as a Red Sea transit point. Due to limited rainfall, vegetables and fruits are the principal production crops, and other food items require importation. The services sector constituted around 79.7% of the GDP, followed by industry at 17.3%, and agriculture at 3%.

The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti handles the bulk of the nation's trade. About 70% of the seaport's activity consists of imports to and exports from neighbouring Ethiopia, which depends on the harbour as its main maritime outlet. The port also serves as an international refueling center and trans-shipment hub.

Our Head of Logistics, Nick Prior, went to Ethiopia and Djibouti in 2012 for a familiarisation visit and operational meetings. Here you can see fully loaded car carriers about to leave Djibouti for the 900km journey to Addis Ababa. Djibouti remains the point of entry for Ethiopia-bound goods arriving by sea with appropriate infrastructure in place for this to happen smoothly. Nick is keen to note the following in relation to shipments to South Sudan and Ethiopia: “The process of importing vehicles into South Sudan and Ethiopia is relatively similar as it will inevitably include a period during which a vehicle will be held at the respective ports of discharge (Mombasa and Djibouti) whilst the exemption paperwork is prepared and submitted. This is clearly only the case if the customer is duty-exempt. Customers are well advised to start the process as soon as in receipt of the shipping documents in an effort to advance the process whilst the shipment is still at sea, thereby minimising the time during which the shipment remains at the port.”

We hope you have enjoyed this part of our journey covering 4 countries located in what is known as the Horn of Africa. Next month we will continue with Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.