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CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Eritrea
Flag 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 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.
Geography Eritrea
Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan
Geographic coordinates:
15 00 N, 39 00 E
Map references:
total: 121,320 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 121,320 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries:
total: 1,626 km
border countries: Djibouti 109 km, Ethiopia 912 km, Sudan 605 km
2,234 km total; mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km
Maritime claims:
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); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except in coastal desert
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: near Kulul within the Denakil depression -75 m
highest point: Soira 3,018 m
Natural resources:
gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish
Land use:
arable land: 3.87%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 96.11% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
220 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
frequent droughts; locust swarms
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 24 May 1993
People Eritrea
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: 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
female: 59.13 years (2002 est.)
male: 54.09 years
Total fertility rate:
5.8 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
2.87% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Eritrean(s)
adjective: Eritrean
Ethnic groups:
ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%
Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages
definition: NA
total population: 25%
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Eritrea
Country name:
conventional long form: State of Eritrea
conventional short form: Eritrea
local long form: Hagere Ertra
former: Eritrea Autonomous Region in Ethiopia
local short form: Ertra
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
Asmara (formerly Asmera)
Administrative divisions:
6 regions (regions, singular - region); Central, Anelba, Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Southern, Gash-Barka
24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 24 May (1993)
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
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 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
cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority; members appointed by the president
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:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador GIRMA Asmerom
telephone: [1] (202) 319-1991
consulate(s) general: Oakland (California)
FAX: [1] (202) 319-1304
chancery: 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Donald J. McCONNELL
embassy: Franklin D. Roosevelt Street, 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 Eritrea
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.
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.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
15% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 80%, industry and services 20%
Unemployment rate:
revenues: $206.4 million
expenditures: $615.7 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
210 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
195.3 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh NA kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh NA kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal; livestock, goats; fish
$34.8 million f.o.b. (2000)
Exports - commodities:
livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures
Exports - partners:
Sudan 27.2%, Ethiopia 26.5%, Japan 13.2%, UAE 7.3%, Italy 5.3% (1998)
$470.5 million c.i.f. (2000)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods
Imports - 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) (1999)
nakfa (ERN)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
nakfa (ERN) per US dollar - 9.5 (January 2000), 7.6 (January 1999), 7.2 (March 1998 est.)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Eritrea
Telephones - main lines in use:
30,000 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
NA; note - mobile cellular service was introduced in May 2001
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate
domestic: very inadequate; 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)
345,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2000)
1,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2001)
Internet users:
10,000 (2002)
Transportation Eritrea
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
ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 2, liquefied gas 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2002 est.)
21 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 4
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 14
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 6
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 2 (2002)
Military Eritrea
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Air Force
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$138.3 million (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
19.8% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Eritrea
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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003