Facts about Eritrea

World Facts Index

EritreaEritrea 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 currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the border with Ethiopia. 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 of Eritrea

Location:
Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan
Coordinates:
15 00 N, 39 00 E
Area:
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
Coastline:
2,234 km total; mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 NM
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 in 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: 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
Natural hazards:
frequent droughts; locust swarms
Environment current issues:
deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare
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

Population of Eritrea

Population:
5,502,026 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 44% (male 1,059,458/female 1,046,955)
15-64 years: 52.5% (male 1,244,153/female 1,268,189)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 82,112/female 86,127)
Median age:
17.8 years
Growth rate:
2.47%
Infant mortality:
46.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 59.03 years
male: 57.44 years
female: 60.66 years
Fertility rate:
5.08 children born/woman
Nationality:
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, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages
Literacy:
total population: 58.6%
male: 69.9%
female: 47.6% 

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: State of 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; 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 had been scheduled in December 2001, but were postponed indefinitely; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)
Capital:
Asmara (formerly Asmera)
Administrative divisions:
6 regions (regions, singular - region); Central, Anelba, Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Southern, Gash-Barka
Independence:
24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 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 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)
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly (150 seats; term limits not established)
Judicial branch:
High Court - regional, subregional, and village courts; also have military and special courts

Economy

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%. Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges. Since the war ended, 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, limiting access and availability. Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea's economy is heavily dependent 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 not been able 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 GSE in 2007 and plans to begin mineral extraction in 2010. Eritrea also anticipates opening 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.

GDP:
$3.619 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
2%
GDP per capita:
$1,000
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 25.4%
services: 64.3%
Inflation rate:
15%
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20%
Budget:
revenues: $248.8 million
expenditures: $409.4 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% 
Industries:
food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles, salt, cement, commercial ship repair
Agriculture:
sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal; livestock, goats; fish
Exports:
livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures (2000)
Export partners:
Ireland 25.7%, US 17.9%, Italy 16%, Turkey 6.2%
Imports:
machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods (2000)
Import partners:
Malaysia 21.3%, Italy 13.7%, Egypt 8.4%, India 7.8%, Japan 6.5%, Germany 5.4%, China 4%
Currency:
nakfa (ERN)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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