Eritrea facts on every entity in the world

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.



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

Geographic coordinates

15.00° N, 39.00° E

Area 101/257

total: 117,600 sq km

land: 101,000 sq km

water: 16,600 sq km

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


mean elevation:

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

210 sq km (2012)

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

People and Society


noun: Eritrean(s)

adjective: Eritrean

Ethnic groups

nine recognized ethnic groups: Tigrinya 55%, Tigre 30%, Saho 4%, Kunama 2%, Rashaida 2%, Bilen 2%, other (Afar, Beni Amir, Nera) 5% (2010 est.)


Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages


Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Population 107/238

6,527,689 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 40.25% (male 1,320,752/female 1,306,357)

15-24 years: 20.43% (male 665,900/female 667,509)

25-54 years: 31.86% (male 1,031,391/female 1,048,303)

55-64 years: 3.73% (male 104,004/female 139,637)

65 years and over: 3.74% (male 104,513/female 139,323) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 83.2%

youth dependency ratio: 78.4%

elderly dependency ratio: 4.8%

potential support ratio: 20.7% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 19.3 years

male: 19 years

female: 19.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 36/233

2.25% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 41/224

30 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 113/225

7.52 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 98/222

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 22.6% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 5.11% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

ASMARA (capital) 804,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.75 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2010 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 46/184

501 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 56/224

total: 37.53 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 42.59 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 32.31 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 184/224

total population: 63.81 years

male: 61.65 years

female: 66.03 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 37/224

4.02 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Health expenditures 184/191

3% of GDP (2013)

Hospital bed density

0.7 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source


urban: 73.2% of population

rural: 53.3% of population

total: 57.8% of population


urban: 26.8% of population

rural: 46.7% of population

total: 42.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 44.5% of population

rural: 7.3% of population

total: 15.7% of population


urban: 55.5% of population

rural: 92.7% of population

total: 84.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.68% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

16,100 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

700 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 188/191

3.4% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 7/138

38.8% (2010)

Education expenditures 165/173

2.1% of GDP (2006)


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

etymology: the country name derives from the ancient Greek appellation "Erythra Thalassa" meaning Red Sea, which is the major water body bordering the country

Government type

authoritarian presidential regime


name: Asmara (Asmera)

geographic coordinates: 15.20° N, 38.56° E

time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

6 regions (zobatat, singular - zoba); Anseba, Debub (South), Debubawi K'eyih Bahri (Southern Red Sea), Gash Barka, Ma'akel (Central), Semenawi Keyih Bahri (Northern Red Sea)


24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

National holiday

Independence Day, 24 May (1991)


adopted 23 May 1997 (not fully implemented); note - in mid-2014, the president announced plans to draft a new constitution (2015)

Legal system

mixed legal system of civil, customary, and Islamic religious law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Eritrea

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 20 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President ISAIAS Afworki (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both 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 appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); the only election was held on 8 June 1993, following independence from Ethiopia (next election postponed indefinitely)

election results: ISAIAS Afworki elected president by the transitional National Assembly; percent of National Assembly vote - ISAIAS Afworki (PFDJ) 95%, other 5%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Hagerawi Baito (150 seats; 75 members indirectly elected by the ruling party and 75 directly elected by simple majority vote; members serve 5-year terms)

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 form 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 indefinitely due to the war with Ethiopia

Judicial branch

highest court(s): High Court (consists of 20 judges and organized into civil, commercial, criminal, labor, administrative, and customary sections)

judge selection and term of office: High Court judges appointed by the president

subordinate courts: regional/zonal courts; community courts; special courts; sharia courts (for issues dealing with Muslim marriage, inheritance, and family); military courts

Political parties and leaders

People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ [ISAIAS Afworki] (the only party recognized by the government)

note: a National Assembly committee drafted a law on political parties in January 2001, but the full National Assembly never debated or voted on it

Political pressure groups and leaders

Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Eritrean Kunama or DMLEK

Eritrean Democratic Alliance or EDA

Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice and Development or EIPJD (includes the Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ), Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM), Eritrean Islamic Salvation, and the Eritrean Islamic Foundation)

Eritrean National Congress for Democratic Change or ENCDC

Eritrean National Salvation Front or ENSF

Eritrean People's Democratic Party or EPDP

Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization or RSADO

International organization participation


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; green stands for the country's agriculture economy, red signifies the blood shed in the fight for freedom, and blue symbolizes the bounty of the sea; the wreath-olive branch symbol is similar to that on the first flag of Eritrea from 1952; the shape of the red triangle broadly mimics the shape of the country

note: one of several flags where a prominent component of the design reflects the shape of the country; other such flags are those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, and Vanuatu

National symbol(s)

camel; national colors: green, red, blue

National anthem

name: "Ertra, Ertra, Ertra" (Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea)

lyrics/music: SOLOMON Tsehaye Beraki/Isaac Abraham MEHAREZGI and ARON Tekle Tesfatsion

note: adopted 1993; upon independence from Ethiopia


Economy - overview

Since formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced many economic problems, including lack of financial 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 Ethiopia-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 began production in 2013.

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 and government revenue 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) 162/230

$7.938 billion (2015 est.)

$7.919 billion (2014 est.)

$7.786 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.256 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 196/225

0.2% (2015 est.)

1.7% (2014 est.)

1.3% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 221/230

$1,200 (2015 est.)

$1,200 (2014 est.)

$1,200 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars; estimates for the size of the Eritrean population vary widely from 3 to 6 million

Gross national saving 173/179

1% of GDP (2015 est.)

2.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

4% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 76.9%

government consumption: 21.1%

investment in fixed capital: 13.6%

investment in inventories: -0.1%

exports of goods and services: 7.6%

imports of goods and services: -19.1%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 12.3%

industry: 29.4%

services: 58.3% (2015 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 29/202

5% (2015 est.)

Labor force 101/233

3.263 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 80%

industry and services: 20% (2004 est.)

Unemployment rate 98/207

8.6% (2013 est.)

10% (2012 est.)

Population below poverty line

50% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $1.443 billion

expenditures: $2.016 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 69/219

33.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 212/220

-13.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 7/176

122.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

125.3% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 208/226

10.1% (2015 est.)

12.2% (2014 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate


Stock of narrow money 120/192

$2.516 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.129 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 130/193

$5.523 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$4.494 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 124/191

$4.974 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$4.052 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Current account balance 65/197

-$95 million (2015 est.)

-$35 million (2014 est.)

Exports 172/224

$510.9 million (2015 est.)

$504.9 million (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

gold and other minerals, livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures

Imports 176/223

$1.157 billion (2015 est.)

$1.15 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 159/170

$247.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$218.9 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 165/206

$955.6 million (31 December 2014 est.)

$945.2 million (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

nakfa (ERN) per US dollar -

15.38 (2015 est.)

15.38 (2014 est.)

15.38 (2013 est.)

15.38 (2012 est.)

15.38 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 170/220

338 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 182/219

284 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 135/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 145/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 166/214

140,800 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 51/214

98.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 87/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 171/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 91/212

1.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 130/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 119/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 186/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 129/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 178/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 178/212

3,500 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 177/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 170/213

3,500 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 182/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 139/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 94/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 192/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 134/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 173/212

739,500 Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 154/219

total subscriptions: 64,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 172/217

total: 417,400

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 7 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: inadequate; most fixed-line telephones are in Asmara; government is seeking international tenders to improve the system; cell phones in increasing use throughout the country

domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership is less than 5 per 100 persons

international: country code - 291 (2011)

Broadcast media

government controls broadcast media with private ownership prohibited; 1 state-owned TV station; state-owned radio operates 2 networks; purchases of satellite dishes and subscriptions to international broadcast media are permitted (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)

Television broadcast stations

2 (2006)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 177/232

701 (2012)

Internet users 180/217

total: 58,100

percent of population: 0.91% (2014 est.)


Airports 151/236

13 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4

over 3,047 m: 2

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 9

over 3,047 m: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)


1 (2013)

Railways 120/136

total: 306 km

narrow gauge: 306 km 0.950-m gauge (2014)

Roadways 159/223

total: 4,010 km

paved: 874 km

unpaved: 3,136 km (2000)

Merchant marine 129/156

total: 4

by type: cargo 2, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Assab, Massawa

Military and Security

Military branches

Eritrean Armed Forces: Eritrean Ground Forces, Eritrean Navy, Eritrean Air Force (includes Air Defense Force) (2011)

Military service age and obligation

18-40 years of age for male and female voluntary and compulsory military service; 16-month conscript service obligation (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002 Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups; in 2008, Eritrean troops moved across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupied Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea