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After independence from Italian colonial control in 1941 and 10 years of British administrative control, the UN established Eritrea as an autonomous region within the Ethiopian federation in 1952.

Ethiopia’s full annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a violent 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating government forces. Eritreans overwhelmingly approved independence in a 1993 referendum. ISAIAS Afworki has been Eritrea’s only president since independence; his rule, particularly since 2001, has been highly autocratic and repressive. His government has created a highly militarized society by pursuing an unpopular program of mandatory conscription into national service, sometimes of indefinite length. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. A UN peacekeeping operation was established that monitored a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) created in April 2003 was tasked “to delimit and demarcate the colonial treaty border based on pertinent colonial treaties (1900, 1902, and 1908) and applicable international law.”

The EEBC on 30 November 2007 remotely demarcated the border, assigning the town of Badme to Eritrea, despite Ethiopia’s maintaining forces there from the time of the 1998-2000 war. Eritrea insisted that the UN terminate its peacekeeping mission on 31 July 2008. Eritrea has accepted the EEBC’s “virtual demarcation” decision and repeatedly called on Ethiopia to remove its troops. Ethiopia has not accepted the demarcation decision, and neither party has entered into meaningful dialogue to resolve the impasse.

Eritrea is subject to several UN Security Council Resolutions (from 2009, 2011, and 2012) imposing various military and economic sanctions, in view of evidence that it has supported armed opposition groups in the region.

Since formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced many economic problems, including lack of resources and chronic drought, which have been exacerbated by 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 the sector only produces a small share of the country’s total output. Since the conclusion of the Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 2000, the government has expanded use of military and party-owned businesses to complete President ISAIAS’s development agenda.

The government has strictly controlled the use of foreign currency by limiting access and availability; new regulations in 2013 aimed at relaxing currency controls have had little economic effect. Few large private enterprises exist in Eritrea and most operate in conjunction with government partners, including a number of large international mining ventures that have recently begun production. While reliable statistics on food security are difficult to obtain, erratic rainfall and the percentage of the labor force tied up in national service continue to interfere with agricultural production and economic development.

Eritrea’s harvests generally cannot meet the food needs of the country without supplemental grain purchases. Copper, potash, and gold production is likely to drive economic growth over the next few years, but military spending will continue to compete with development and investment plans.

Eritrea’s economic future will depend on market reform, international sanctions, global food prices, and success at addressing social problems such refugee emigration.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$7.855 billion (2014 est.)
$7.699 billion (2013 est.)
$7.598 billion (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2014 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 164

GDP (official exchange rate):
$3.87 billion (2014 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
2% (2014 est.)
1.3% (2013 est.)
7% (2012 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 152

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$1,200 (2014 est.)
$1,200 (2013 est.)
$1,200 (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 221

Gross national saving:
7.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
8.9% of GDP (2013 est.)
12.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159

GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 77.8%
government consumption: 18.5%
investment in fixed capital: 14.2%
investment in inventories: 0%
exports of goods and services: 9.7%
imports of goods and services: -20.2%
(2014 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 11.6%
industry: 28.1%
services: 60.2%
(2014 est.)

Agriculture – products:
sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, sisal; livestock, goats; fish

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

Industrial production growth rate:
11% (2014 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 9

Labor force:
3.159 million (2014 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 102

Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (2004 est.)

Unemployment rate:
8.6% (2013 est.)
10% (2012 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 99

Population below poverty line:
50% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

revenues: $1.144 billion
expenditures: $1.638 billion (2014 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:
29.6% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-12.8% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 209

Public debt:
101.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
126% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
13% (2014 est.)
13% (2013 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

Stock of narrow money:
$1.991 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$1.483 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130

Stock of broad money:
$4.077 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$3.11 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 138

Stock of domestic credit:
$4.025 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$2.868 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125

Current account balance:
-$193.5 million (2014 est.)
-$157.2 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88

$573.5 million (2014 est.)
$505.3 million (2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 172

Exports – commodities:
Gold and other minerals, livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures

$1.16 billion (2014 est.)
$1.028 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177

Imports – commodities:
machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$220.4 million (31 December 2014 est.)
$193.1 million (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160

Debt – external:
$1.049 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$1.028 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160

Exchange rates:
nakfa (ERN) per US dollar –
15.38 (2014 est.)
15.375 (2013 est.)
15.375 (2012 est.)
15.375 (2011 est.)
15.375 (2010 est.)

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

Geographic coordinates:
15 00 N, 39 00 E

Map references:

total: 117,600 sq km
land: 101,000 sq km
water: 16,600 sq km
* country comparison to the world: 101

Area – comparative:
slightly larger than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries:
total: 1,840 km
border countries (3): Djibouti 125 km, Ethiopia 1,033 km, Sudan 682 km

2,234 km (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, heaviest June to September); semiarid in western hills and lowlands

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 Danakil Depression -75 m
highest point: Soira 3,018 m

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

Land use:
agricultural land: 75.1%
arable land 6.8%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 68.3%
forest: 15.1%
other: 9.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
215.9 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:
6.3 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.58 cu km/yr (5%/0%/95%)
per capita: 121.3 cu m/yr (2004)

Natural hazards:
frequent droughts, rare earthquakes and volcanoes; locust swarms
volcanism: Dubbi (elev. 1,625 m), which last erupted in 1861, was the country’s only historically active volcano until Nabro (2,218 m) came to life on 12 June 2011

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

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
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

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