Djibouti’s Unusual Resource Curse

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the author argues that in addition to tangible resources (such as oil, diamond, timber, gold), non-tangible assets such as geopolitical location can cause resource curse. The author emphasizes that not the resource itself but the decisions taken by the leaders are the main determinant of the ‘curse’.
Social scientists have argued that countries whose economy relies on an abundant resource are likely to be cursed by that resource. Such countries are likely to face problems like economic crisis, fragile economy and high prices, authoritarian rule and even civil conflict. Djibouti does not have any tangible abundant resource that dominates national economy. However, Djibouti is located in a very strategic location. Major international powers are interested in this ‘resource’ of the country. The United States and France have military bases in the country. The author argues that Djiboutian rulers regard the strategic location of the country, just like oil, as an asset convertible to rent and to suppress opposition.
In the article, the author provides detailed information about Djibouti. She shares information and insights from informants obtained from her field trip via interviews. For those who are interested in Djibouti, plenty of information about the miserable state of the country is available.
In the final analysis, as a reader, personally I am not convinced by the argument of Brass. As she already makes it clear in the article, it is the authoritarian rule of the leadership that created the current poverty and less developed country. Geopolitical location of the country can function only as an explanatory variable for accounting for the consent and turning blind eye of France and the United States to the authoritarian rule in the country.