Region: Eastern Africa
Capital: Asmara (Asmera)
Population: 5,028,475 (July 2008 est.)
Surface area: 121,320 sq km
Currency: nakfa (ERN)
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $800 (2007 est.)
Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the border with Ethiopia. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002. However, both parties have been unable to reach agreement on implementing the decision. On 30 November 2007, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission remotely demarcated the border by coordinates and dissolved itself, leaving Ethiopia still occupying several tracts of disputed territory, including the town of Badme. Eritrea accepted the EEBC's "virtual demarcation" decision and called on Ethiopia to remove its troops from the TSZ which it states is Eritrean territory. Ethiopia has not accepted the virtual demarcation decision.
Economy – Overview:
Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country, accentuated by the recent implementation of restrictive economic policies. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Like the economies of many African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. The Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 1998-2000 severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth fell to zero in 1999 and to -12.1% in 2000. The May 2000 Ethiopian offensive into northern Eritrea caused some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The attack prevented planting of crops in Eritrea's most productive region, causing food production to drop by 62%. Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges. Since the war ended, the government has maintained a firm grip on the economy, expanding the use of the military and party-owned businesses to complete Eritrea's development agenda. The government strictly controls the use of foreign currency, limiting access and availability. Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea's economy is heavily dependent on taxes paid by members of the diaspora. Erratic rainfall and the delayed demobilization of agriculturalists from the military continue to interfere with agricultural production, and Eritrea's recent harvests have not been able to meet the food needs of the country. The government continues to place its hope for additional revenue on the development of several international mining projects. Despite difficulties for international companies in working with the Eritrean government, a Canadian mining company signed a contract with the GSE in 2007 and plans to begin mineral extraction in 2010. Eritrea also anticipates opening a free trade zone at the port of Massawa in 2008. Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master social problems such as illiteracy, unemployment, and low skills, and more importantly, on the government's willingness to support a true market economy.
Major Export Commodities: livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures
Remittances: Not available
Human Development Index 2007/2008 ranking: 157 out of 177
Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners: Net ODA in 2006 was US $63.22 million. Major development partners include the United States, the IDA, and the European Community.
Total External Debt: US $311 million (2000 est.)
United Nations membership date: 28 May 1993
New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations,
800 2nd Avenue, 18th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10017
Telephone: 212-687-3390, Fax: 212-687-3138
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org
Human Development Report 2007/2008.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org
Updated June 2008