MID-2007 was expected to have seen the signing of a 25-year concession for the operation of the 781 km Ethio-Djibouti Railway. But it was not to be.

Nine consortia had expressed interest in the concession when bidding began two years ago. Two groups led by Comazar of South Africa and Rites of India were shortlisted for the second round of financial tenders, and since then Comazar has been in negotiations with the two governments.

A ceremony was planned in Addis Abeba during June, but the concessionaires apparently failed to turn up. Now the governments have decided to look elsewhere.

On July 18 Ethiopia's Transport Minister Junedin Sado visited his Djibouti counterpart Ismael Ibrahim Humed to launch discussions with Kuwaiti trading company Alghanim Sons Group. The firm was reportedly visiting Djibouti to bid for the construction of a water desalination plant, but told President Ismael Omar Guelleh that it might be interested in other local investment projects.

Meanwhile, July saw the start of work on the much-need rehabilitation of the 108-year old metre-gauge railway, funded by a €40m grant from the European Union.