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Info Africa - ERITREA

Eritrea lies in eastern Africa, north of Ethiopia. It borders the Red Sea as well as Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Eritrea was an independent nation until the 16th century when the Ottoman Empire came to rule this area. The control of this country was a matter of dispute between the Ottomans, Ethiopia, Egypt and Italy. In 1889, an agreement between Italy and Menilek of Ethiopia recognized Italian possessions along the Red Sea Coast; Eritrea being one of them. The Italians were expelled by the British in 1941. Once the British left, Eritrea was incorporated into Ethiopia in a federal agreement administered by the United Nations in 1952. Ten years later, Eritrea was fully annexed into Ethiopia. In fact, it is this

annexation that led to Eritrea's 30-year struggle for independence. It was not uneil 1993 that Ethiopia granted Eritrea its independence. When Ethiopia annexed Eritrea, Eritrea's flag was discarded and Eritreans were forced to speak the Ethiopian language of Amharic. In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia began and ended in December 2000 under UN auspices. Today, peace is prevailing in Eritrea; however, Eritrea is still faced with the challenge of rebuilding itself after 30 years of fighting. The country’s coast borders the Red Sea and has a rather mountainous interior. The colonial periods of the Turkish and Egyptians have left behind various buildings and sites that reflect this history. Eritrea has various natural attractions and a huge selection of wildlife, including lions, elephants and baboons. There is a lot to see in Eritrea, from its archaeological and architectural heritage to the historic sites (struggle for independence sites). In Asmara, Eritrea’s capital, ancient Italian architecture is still very much present. The different markets and stalls of Asmara have everything from fruits and vegetables, to spices, handicrafts and clothes. The National Avenue is home to the Government Administrative Centre, the Asmara Theatre, which was built in 1918, the Town Hall as well as some bars and cafes. Another important city in Eritrea is Massawa, which is the main port serving the country. There are nine major ethnic groups in Eritrea. The two most spoken native languages are Tigrinya and Tigre.
CATEGORIES: Demographics - Quick Facts - Economy - Communications - Health Issues
Country Flag: Eritrea's Flag

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 in the red triangle

Nationality: Eritrean

Capital: Asmara

Population: 4,786,994 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 44%
  • 15-64 years: 52.5%
  • 65 years and over: 3.5% (2006 est.)  

Population growth rate: 2.47% (2006 est.)

Literacy rate:

  • ages 15 and above can read and write.
  • 58.6% of the population is literate (male: 69.9%, female: 47.6%) (2003 est.)

Major religions: Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Languages: Afar, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages

Quick Facts
  • total: 121,320 sq km
  • land: 121,320 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km

Area comparative to Canadian province: double the size of Nova Scotia

Natural resources: gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish

Environmental Issues: deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare


Eritrea’s economy is mainly based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population engaged in farming and herding. The Ethiopia-Eritrea war that lasted from 1998 – 2000 hurt Eritrea’s economy. GDP growth decreased to zero in 1999 and to 12.1% in 2000.  Ethiopian offensive into northern Eritrea in May 2000 caused $600 million in property damage and loss, as well as the losses of livestock and thousands of houses. There was no crop planting in Eritrea’s most productive region as a result of this attack, decreasing food by 62%. Since the end of the war, the government is maintaining a solid grip on the economy as they expand the use of military and party-owned businesses to complete Eritrea’s development program. The future of the economy of Eritrea depends on its ability to master social issues including unemployment, illiteracy and low skills. Eritrea needs to consider its willingness to open its economy to private enterprises to enable Diasporas’ money and expertise to contribute to greater economic growth.

Major industries:

  • food processing
  • beverages
  • clothing and textiles
  • salt
  • cement
  • commercial ship repair

Agricultural products:

  • sorghum
  • lentils
  • vegetables
  • corn
  • cotton
  • tobacco
  • coffee
  • sisal
  • livestock
  • goats
  • fish

Oil production: 0 bbl/day (2003)

Railways: 306 km

Road map: 4,010 km (paved: 874 km, unpaved: 3,136 km)

Currency: Nakfa


Telephone lines in use: 39,300 (2004)

Cellular lines in use: 20,000 (2004)

Television Stations: 1 (2000)

Radio Stations: AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)

Internet users: 50,000 (2005)

Health Issues

HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 2.7% (2003 est.)

People living with HIV/AIDS: 60,000 (2003 est.)

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