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Countries > Eritrea Eritrea Flag

Languages   5 languages are spoken in Eritrea. We have 16 products available for 4 of those languages.

Capital: Asmara
Population: 4,000,000
Eritrea Map


Historical perspective: 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 on 12 December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that will monitor the border region until an international commission determines and demarcates the boundary between the two countries.


Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan

Geographic coordinates: 15 00 N, 39 00 E

Map references: Africa

total : 121,320 sq km
land: 121,320 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries:
total: 1,630 km
border countries: Djibouti 113 km, Ethiopia 912 km, Sudan 605 km

Coastline: 2,234 km total; mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km

Maritime claims: NA

Climate: hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except on coastal desert

Terrain: 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

Elevation extremes:
lowest point : Kobar Sink -75 m
highest point: Soira 3,013 m

Natural resources: gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, probably oil (petroleum geologists are prospecting for it), fish

Land use:
arable land: 4%
permanent crops:0%
other : 96% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land: 220 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards: frequent droughts

Environment - current issues: deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note: 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 27 April 1993


Population: 4,465,651 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 42.9% (male 958,564; female 955,625)
15-64 years: 53.9% (male 1,192,454; female 1,213,313)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 73,017; female 72,678) (2002 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.8% (2002 est.)

Birth rate: 42.25 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate: 11.82 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate: 7.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note:note: UNHCR began repatriating about 150,000 Eritrean refugees from Sudan in 2001 following the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2000 (2002 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth : 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years:0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over:1 male(s)/female
total population : 0.99 male(s)/female (2002 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 73.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) )

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 56.57 years
male:54.09 years
female :59.13 years (2002 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.8 children born/woman (2002 est.)

noun: Eritrean(s)
adjective: Eritrean

Ethnic groups:ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%

Religions: Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Languages: Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Italian, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, minor tribal languages


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

Data code: ER

Government type: 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; Afworki ISAIAS 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 had been scheduled to take place in December 2001, but were postponed; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), though a draft political parties law is under consideration

National capital: Asmara (formerly Asmera)

Administrative divisions:6 regions (regions, singular - region); Central, Anelba, Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Southern, Gash-Barka

Independence: 27 May 1993 (from Ethiopia; formerly the Eritrea Autonomous Region)

National holiday: National Day (independence from Ethiopia), 24 May (1993)

Constitution:the transitional constitution, decreed on 19 May 1993, was replaced by a new constitution adopted on 23 May 1997, but not yet implemented

Legal system: primary basis is the Ethiopian legal code of 1957, with revisions; new civil, commercial, and penal codes have not yet been promulgated; also relies on customary and post-independence-enacted laws and, for civil cases involving Muslims, Sharia law

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state:President Afworki ISAIAS (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); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority
note: the president is head of the State Council and National Assembly
elections: president elected by the National Assembly; election last 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%

Legislative branch:unicameral National Assembly (150 seats; term limits not established)
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 indefinately

Judicial branch:High court, regional, subregional, and village courts; also have military and special courts

Political parties and leaders: People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, the only party recognized by the government [Afworki ISAIAS]; note - a National Assembly committee drafted a law on political parties in January 2001, but the full National Assembly had not yet debated or voted on it as of December 2001

Political pressure groups and leaders: Eritrean Islamic Jihad or EIJ; Eritrean Liberation Front or ELF [ABDULLAH Muhammed]; Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council or ELF-RC [Ahmed NASSER]; Eritrean Liberation Front-United Organization or ELF-UO [Mohammed Said NAWD]; Eritrean Public Forum or EPF [ARADOM Iyob]

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IGADD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), ITU, NAM, OAU, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador GIRMA Asmerom
chancery: 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone : [1] (202) 319-1991
FAX: [1] (202) 319-1304

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission : Ambassador Donald J. McCONNELL
embassy: Franklin D. Roosevelt St., Asmara
mailing address: P.O. Box 211, Asmara
telephone: [291] (1) 120004
FAX : [291] (1) 127584

Flag description: 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 - overview:Since independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country. 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 in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% 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. Eritrea's economic future remains mixed. The cessation of Ethiopian trade, which mainly used Eritrean ports before the war, leaves Eritrea with a large economic hole to fill. Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master fundamental social problems like illiteracy, unemployment, and low skills, and to convert the diaspora's money and expertise into economic growth.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $3.2 billion (2001 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2001 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $740 (2001 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 29%
services :54% (2001 est.)

Inflation rate - consumer price index: 15% (2001 est.)

Labor force: NA

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues : $206.4 million
expenditures: $615.7 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)

Industries: food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity - capacity: 73,000 kW (1995)

Electricity - production: 210 million kWh (2000)

Electricity - consumption per capita: 195.3 million kWh (2000)

Agriculture - products: sorghum, lentils, vegetables, maize, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal (for making rope); livestock (including goats); fish

total value: $34.8 million (f.o.b., 2000)
commodities: livestock, sorghum, textiles
partners: Sudan 27.2%, Ethiopia 26.5%, Japan 13.2%, UAE 7.3%, Italy 5.3% (1998)

total value : $470.5 million (c.i.f., 2000)
commodities: processed goods, machinery, petroleum products
partners: Italy 17.4%, UAE 16.2%, Germany 5.7%, UK 4.5%, Korea 4.4% (1998)

Debt - external: $281 million (2000 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: $77 million (1999)

Currency: nakfa (ERN)

Exchange rates: nakfa (ERN) per US dollar - 9.5 (January 2000), 7.6 (January 1999), 7.2 (March 1998 est.)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Telephones: 30,000 (2001)

Telephone system:
domestic : most telephones are in Asmara; government is seeking international tenders to improve the system (2002)
international: NA; note - international connections exist

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)

Radios: 345,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 1 (2000)

Televisions: 1,000 (1997)


total: 317 km
narrow gauge: 317 km 0.950-m gauge
note: links Ak'ordat and Asmara with the port of Massawa; nonoperational since 1978 except for about a 5 km stretch that was reopened in Massawa in 1994; rehabilitation of the remainder and of the rolling stock is under way (2001 est.)

total: 3,850 km
paved:810 km
unpaved : 3,040 km (2000)

Ports and harbors: Assab (Aseb), Massawa (Mits'iwa)

Merchant marine:
total : 6 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 19,100 GRT/23,399 DWT

Airports: 21 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways:
total : 4
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2001)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total : 17
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m:5
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m:2 (2001)


Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: NA

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males: NA

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $138.3 million (FY01)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 19.8% (FY01)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international: Eritrea and Ethiopia have expressed general approval of the April 2002 arbitration commission ruling re-delimiting the boundary, the focus of their 1998-2000 war; United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) will monitor activities within the 25-km wide temporary security zone in Eritrea until demarcation and de-mining are complete; Yemen has asserted traditional fishing rights to islands ceded to Eritrea in ICJ ruling