Eritrea officially the State of Eritrea is a country in Northeast Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea.

Background History

The UN awarded Eritrea 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 that it states is Eritrean territory. Ethiopia has not accepted the virtual demarcation decision. In 2009 the UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea after accusing it of backing anti-Ethiopian Islamist insurgents in Somalia.


Country Name:

  • 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


  • name: Asmara
  • population: 649,000
  • geographic coordinates: 15 20 N, 38 56 E
  • time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

Government Type:

  • Transitional Government

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Isaias Afworki (since 8 June 1993)
  • head of government: President Isaias Afworki (since 8 June 1993)
  • cabinet: State Council the collective is 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 was held on 8 June 1993 (next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; Regional, subregional, and village courts

People & Society


  • 10,732,900 (global rank: 79)
  • growth rate: 0.964% (global rank: 120)


  • noun: Eritrean(s)
  • adjective: Eritrean

Major Cities:

  • Asmara (capital): 649,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Nine recognized ethnic groups: Tigrinya 55%, Tigre 30%, Saho 4%, Kunama 2%, Rashaida 2%, Bilen 2%, other (Afar, Beni Amir, Nera) 5%


  • Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant


  • Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 62.86 years (global rank: 178)
  • male: 60.73 years
  • female: 65.06 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 40.34 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 61)
  • male: 45.69 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 34.82 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.8% (2009 est.) (global rank: 55)
  • people living with AIDS: 25,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 172)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 58.6%
  • male: 69.9%
  • female: 47.6%


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, a large share of the population - nearly 80% - is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but they produce only a small share of total output. Since the conclusion of the Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 2000, 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 began mineral extraction in 2010. 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.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $3.978 billion (global rank: 169)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $700 (global rank: 219)
  • real growth rate: 8.2% (global rank: 9)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 11%, industry: 34%, services: 55%


  • currency: Nakfa (ERN)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 15.38


  • population below poverty line: 50%
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

  • sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, sisal; livestock, goats; fish


  • food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles, light manufacturing, salt, cement

Exports Commodities:

  • livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures

Imports Commodities:

  • machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods



  • Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan


  • total: 117,600 sq km (global rank: 101)
  • land: 101,000 sq km
  • water: 16,600 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Pennsylvania


  • 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

Land Use:

  • arable land: 4.78%
  • permanent crops: 0.03%
  • other: 95.19%

Natural Resources:

  • gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish

Current Environmental Issues:

  • deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: 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; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups; in 2008 Eritrean troops move across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupy Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea
  • internally displaced persons: 32,000 (border war with Ethiopia from 1998-2000; most IDPs are near the central border region)
  • human trafficking: Eritrea is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation; each year, large numbers of migrant workers depart Eritrea in search of work, particularly in the Gulf States, where some are likely to become victims of forced labor, including in domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation; Eritrean children also work in various economic sectors, including domestic service, street vending, small-scale factories, and agriculture; child laborers frequently suffer abuse from their employers and some may be subjected to conditions of forced labor

Published: Thursday, September 04, 2008