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Articulating a "Dubai Model" of Development: The Case of Djibouti

Published on: September 2010​
Genre: Dubai Model​ Category: Research Report/ Research Paper/ White Paper​

Within the course of a decade, Dubai grew from a prosperous Gulf trading city into one of the most dynamic metropolises on the planet. Thus was born the notion of a "Dubai Model," a term that has been variously used to denote something to be both admired and emulated (a formula for self-actualized growth and inter-ethnic and religious tolerance) and denigrated (an unsustainable urban spectacle).

This paper argues that there is indeed a strong case to be made for a "Dubai Model of Development. The best evidence for this model is not to be found in Dubai, per se, but in parts of the developing world where Dubai-based entities have invested heavily. Within this field, the most obvious example is Djibouti—that African state with which the Emirate has had the longest and deepest relationship.

While heavily informed by techniques and strategies pioneered in Dubai--e.g., dynamic connections between ports, free zones and airports--the basic model is definitively catalytic as opposed to emulative. Djibouti did not simply decide it wanted to be the "next Dubai," it sought Dubai’s assistance as a source of strategy, expertise, and capital. Dubai did not just lend and invest, it created a broad scale of interlocking public-private partnerships that encompassed everything from a super-modern container port, to a network of clinics that serve communities and truckers along the trunk road linking Djibouti with Ethiopia.

The story as it unfolds below is extremely interesting not only for what it says about Dubai, but also about what it potentially offers a certain class of developing countries: an alternative (or complement) to a number of failed or incomplete solutions proffered by individual states and multilateral lending organizations.

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