Africa :: Eritrea
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Eritrea
Location of Eritrea
Map of Eritrea
Introduction ::Eritrea
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 hosted a UN peacekeeping operation that monitored a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the border with Ethiopia. Eritrea's denial of fuel to the mission caused the UN to withdraw the mission and terminate its mandate 31 July 2008. 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.
Geography ::Eritrea
Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan
15 00 N, 39 00 E
total: 117,600 sq km
country comparison to the world: 100
land: 101,000 sq km
water: 16,600 sq km
slightly larger than Pennsylvania
total: 1,626 km
border countries: Djibouti 109 km, Ethiopia 912 km, Sudan 605 km
2,234 km (mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km)
territorial sea: 12 nm
hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually, heaviest June to September); semiarid in western hills and lowlands
dominated by extension of Ethiopian north-south trending highlands, descending on the east to a coastal desert plain, on the northwest to hilly terrain and on the southwest to flat-to-rolling plains
lowest point: near Kulul within the Danakil Depression -75 m
highest point: Soira 3,018 m
gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish
arable land: 4.78%
permanent crops: 0.03%
other: 95.19% (2005)
210 sq km (2003)
6.3 cu km (2001)
total: 0.3 cu km/yr (3%/0%/97%)
per capita: 68 cu m/yr (2000)
frequent droughts; locust swarms
deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993
People ::Eritrea
5,647,168 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
0-14 years: 42.8% (male 1,212,848/female 1,202,240)
15-64 years: 53.7% (male 1,483,169/female 1,547,078)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 92,009/female 109,824) (2009 est.)
total: 18.4 years
male: 18 years
female: 18.8 years (2009 est.)
2.577% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 29
34.2 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
8.43 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
urban population: 21% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 5.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
total: 43.33 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 62
male: 48.97 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.51 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 61.78 years
country comparison to the world: 179
male: 59.71 years
female: 63.9 years (2009 est.)
4.72 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
1.3% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
38,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 66
2,600 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 56
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria (2009)
noun: Eritrean(s)
adjective: Eritrean
Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%
Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Afar, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 58.6%
male: 69.9%
female: 47.6% (2003 est.)
total: 5 years
male: 6 years
female: 4 years (2004)
2.4% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 161
Government ::Eritrea
conventional long form: State of Eritrea
conventional short form: Eritrea
local long form: Hagere Ertra
local short form: Ertra
former: Eritrea Autonomous Region in Ethiopia
transitional government
note: following a successful referendum on independence for the Autonomous Region of Eritrea on 23-25 April 1993, a National Assembly, composed entirely of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, was established as a transitional legislature; a Constitutional Commission was also established to draft a constitution; ISAIAS Afworki was elected president by the transitional legislature; the constitution, ratified in May 1997, did not enter into effect, pending parliamentary and presidential elections; parliamentary elections were scheduled in December 2001, but were postponed indefinitely; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)
name: Asmara (Asmera)
geographic coordinates: 15 20 N, 38 56 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
6 regions (zobatat, singular - zoba); Anseba, Debub (Southern), Debubawi K'eyih Bahri (Southern Red Sea), Gash Barka, Ma'akel (Central), Semenawi Keyih Bahri (Northern Red Sea)
24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)
Independence Day, 24 May (1993)
adopted on 23 May 1997, but has not yet been fully implemented
primary basis is the Ethiopian legal code of 1957 with revisions; new civil, commercial, and penal codes have not yet been promulgated; government also issues unilateral proclamations setting laws and policies; also relies on customary and post-independence-enacted laws and, for civil cases involving Muslims, Islamic law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President ISAIAS Afworki (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly
head of government: President ISAIAS Afworki (since 8 June 1993)
cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority; members appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); the most recent and only election held 8 June 1993 (next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated)
election results: ISAIAS Afworki elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - ISAIAS Afworki 95%, other 5%
unicameral National Assembly (150 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: in May 1997, following the adoption of the new constitution, 75 members of the PFDJ Central Committee (the old Central Committee of the EPLF), 60 members of the 527-member Constituent Assembly, which had been established in 1997 to discuss and ratify the new constitution, and 15 representatives of Eritreans living abroad were formed into a Transitional National Assembly to serve as the country's legislative body until countrywide elections to a National Assembly were held; although only 75 of 150 members of the Transitional National Assembly were elected, the constitution stipulates that once past the transition stage, all members of the National Assembly will be elected by secret ballot of all eligible voters; National Assembly elections scheduled for December 2001 were postponed indefinitely
High Court - regional, subregional, and village courts; also have military and special courts
People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ [ISAIAS Afworki] (the only party recognized by the government); note - a National Assembly committee drafted a law on political parties in January 2001, but the full National Assembly has yet to debate or vote on it
Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP) [HAGOS, Mesfin]; Eritrean Islamic Jihad or EIJ (includes Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement or EIJM also known as the Abu Sihel Movement); Eritrean Islamic Salvation or EIS (also known as the Arafa Movement); Eritrean Liberation Front or ELF [ABDULLAH Muhammed]; Eritrean National Alliance or ENA (a coalition including EIJ, EIS, ELF, and a number of ELF factions) [HERUY Tedla Biru]; Eritrean Public Forum or EPF [ARADOM Iyob]
ACP, AfDB, AU, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (observer), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, ITUC, LAS (observer), MIGA, NAM, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
chief of mission: Ambassador GHIRMAI Ghebremariam
chancery: 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 319-1991
FAX: [1] (202) 319-1304
consulate(s) general: Oakland (California)
chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald MCMULLEN
embassy: 179 Ala Street, Asmara
mailing address: P. O. Box 211, Asmara
telephone: [291] (1) 120004
FAX: [291] (1) 127584
red isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) dividing the flag into two right triangles; the upper triangle is green, the lower one is blue; a gold wreath encircling a gold olive branch is centered on the hoist side of the red triangle
Economy ::Eritrea
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%. Despite the fighting, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges. Since the war's conclusion, 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 by limiting access and availability. Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea's economy depends heavily 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 been unable 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 Government in 2007 and plans to begin mineral extraction in 2010. Eritrea also opened 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.
$3.945 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
$3.867 billion (2007 est.)
$3.829 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$1.479 billion (2008 est.)
2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 158
1% (2007 est.)
-1% (2006 est.)
$700 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 220
$700 (2007 est.)
$700 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 17.4%
industry: 23.2%
services: 59.4% (2008 est.)
agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (2004 est.)
50% (2004 est.)
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
20.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
revenues: $234.6 million
expenditures: $523.3 million (2008 est.)
18% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 199
17% (2007 est.)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 127
$749.1 million (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 120
$932.9 million (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 117
$1.711 billion (31 December 2007)
sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, sisal; livestock, goats; fish
food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles, light manufacturing, salt, cement
2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 103
271 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170
228 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 179
5,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
4,790 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 158
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 173
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 186
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 62
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
$-229 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
$-203 million (2007 est.)
$13 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 209
$12 million (2007 est.)
livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures
India 31.7%, Italy 18.6%, Kenya 11.9%, China 11.5%, France 5.4% (2008)
$601 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183
$580 million (2007 est.)
machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods
Italy 16.9%, UAE 15.7%, China 13%, India 9.4%, US 6.7%, Germany 6%, Turkey 5% (2008)
$24 million (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
$34 million (31 December 2007 est.)
$311 million (2000 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
nakfa (ERN) per US dollar - 15.38 (2008 est.), 15.5 (2007), 15.4 (2006), 14.5 (2005), 13.788 (2004)
note: the official exchange rate is 15 nakfa to the dollar
Communications ::Eritrea
40,400 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 169
108,600 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 181
general assessment: inadequate; combined fixed-line and mobile cellular subscribership is only about 3 per 100 persons (2008)
domestic: inadequate; most telephones are in Asmara; government is seeking international tenders to improve the system (2002)
international: country code - 291; note - international connections exist
AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)
2 (2006)
1,307 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 156
200,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 135
Transportation ::Eritrea
14 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 147
total: 4
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2009)
total: 10
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2009)
1 (2009)
total: 306 km
country comparison to the world: 121
narrow gauge: 306 km 0.950-m gauge (2008)
total: 4,010 km
country comparison to the world: 157
paved: 874 km
unpaved: 3,136 km (2000)
total: 5
country comparison to the world: 131
by type: cargo 2, liquefied gas 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2008)
Assab, Massawa
Military ::Eritrea
Eritrean Armed Forces: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force (2008)
18-40 years of age for male and female voluntary and compulsory military service; 16-month conscript service obligation (2006)
males age 16-49: 1,108,836
females age 16-49: 1,096,120 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 834,018
females age 16-49: 887,495 (2009 est.)
male: 62,265
female: 62,328 (2009 est.)
6.3% of GDP (2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
Transnational Issues ::Eritrea
Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002 Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision but, neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; UN Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which has monitored the 25-km-wide Temporary Security Zone in Eritrea since 2000, is extended for six months in 2007 despite Eritrean restrictions on its operations and reduced force of 17,000; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups
IDPs: 32,000 (border war with Ethiopia from 1998-2000; most IDPs are near the central border region) (2007)