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Eritrea :: Africa



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 Afwerki 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 – divided between military and civilian service – 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 subsequent 2007 Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) demarcation was rejected by Ethiopia. More than a decade of a tense "no peace, no war" stalemate ended in 2018 after the newly elected Ethiopian prime minister accepted the EEBC's 2007 ruling, and the two countries signed declarations of peace and friendship. Following the July 2018 peace agreement with Ethiopia, Eritrean leaders engaged in intensive diplomacy around the Horn of Africa, bolstering regional peace, security, and cooperation, as well as brokering rapprochements between governments and opposition groups. In November 2018, the UN Security Council lifted an arms embargo that had been imposed on Eritrea since 2009, after the UN Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group reported they had not found evidence of Eritrean support in recent years for Al-Shabaab. The country's rapprochement with Ethiopia has led to a steady resumption of economic ties, with increased air transport, trade, tourism, and port activities, but the economy remains agriculture-dependent, and Eritrea is still one of Africa's poorest nations. Despite the country's improved relations with its neighbors, ISAIAS has not let up on repression and conscription and militarization continue.



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 smaller than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries:

total: 1,840 km
border countries (3): Djibouti 125 km, Ethiopia 1033 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: 853 m
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% (2011 est.)
arable land: 6.8% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 68.3% (2011 est.)
forest: 15.1% (2011 est.)
other: 9.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:

210 sq km (2012)

Population distribution:

density is highest in the center of the country in and around the cities of Asmara (capital) and Keren; smaller settlements exist in the north and south as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards:

frequent droughts, rare earthquakes and volcanoes; locust swarms ++ volcanism: Dubbi (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

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


6,081,196 (July 2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112


noun: Eritrean(s)
adjective: Eritrean

Ethnic groups:

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


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


Sunni Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Demographic profile:

Eritrea is a persistently poor country that has made progress in some socioeconomic categories but not in others. Education and human capital formation are national priorities for facilitating economic development and eradicating poverty. To this end, Eritrea has made great strides in improving adult literacy – doubling the literacy rate over the last 20 years – in large part because of its successful adult education programs. The overall literacy rate was estimated to be almost 74% in 2015; more work needs to be done to raise female literacy and school attendance among nomadic and rural communities. Subsistence farming fails to meet the needs of Eritrea's growing population because of repeated droughts, dwindling arable land, overgrazing, soil erosion, and a shortage of farmers due to conscription and displacement. The government's emphasis on spending on defense over agriculture and its lack of foreign exchange to import food also contribute to food insecurity. ++ Eritrea has been a leading refugee source country since at least the 1960s, when its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia began. Since gaining independence in 1993, Eritreans have continued migrating to Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Egypt, or Israel because of a lack of basic human rights or political freedom, educational and job opportunities, or to seek asylum because of militarization. Eritrea's large diaspora has been a source of vital remittances, funding its war for independence and providing 30% of the country's GDP annually since it became independent. ++ In the last few years, Eritreans have increasingly been trafficked and held hostage by Bedouins in the Sinai Desert, where they are victims of organ harvesting, rape, extortion, and torture. Some Eritrean trafficking victims are kidnapped after being smuggled to Sudan or Ethiopia, while others are kidnapped from within or around refugee camps or crossing Eritrea's borders. Eritreans composed approximately 90% of the conservatively estimated 25,000-30,000 victims of Sinai trafficking from 2009-2013, according to a 2013 consultancy firm report.

Age structure:

0-14 years: 38.23% (male 1,169,456/female 1,155,460)
15-24 years: 20.56% (male 622,172/female 627,858)
25-54 years: 33.42% (male 997,693/female 1,034,550)
55-64 years: 3.8% (male 105,092/female 125,735)
65 years and over: 4% (male 99,231/female 143,949) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios:

total dependency ratio: 83.9
youth dependency ratio: 75.6
elderly dependency ratio: 8.3
potential support ratio: 12.1 (2020 est.)

Median age:

total: 20.3 years
male: 19.7 years
female: 20.8 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 192

Population growth rate:

0.93% (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114

Birth rate:

27.9 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38

Death rate:

6.9 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130

Net migration rate:

-11.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 219

Population distribution:

density is highest in the center of the country in and around the cities of Asmara (capital) and Keren; smaller settlements exist in the north and south as shown in this population distribution map


urban population: 41.3% of total population (2020)
rate of urbanization: 3.86% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population:

963,000 ASMARA (capital) (2020)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.84 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth:

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

Maternal mortality rate:

480 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21

Infant mortality rate:

total: 43.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 50.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 36.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 66.2 years
male: 63.6 years
female: 68.8 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188

Total fertility rate:

3.73 children born/woman (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35

Contraceptive prevalence rate:

8.4% (2010)

Drinking water source:

improved: urban: 73.2% of population
rural: 53.3% of population
total: 57.8% of population
unimproved: urban: 26.8% of population
rural: 46.7% of population
total: 42.2% of population (2015 est.)

Current Health Expenditure:

2.9% (2017)

Physicians density:

0.06 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density:

0.7 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access:

improved: urban: 44.5% of population
rural: 7.3% of population
total: 15.7% of population
unimproved: urban: 55.5% of population
rural: 92.7% of population
total: 84.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.7% (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

14,000 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

<500 (2019 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high (2020)
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever

Obesity - adult prevalence rate:

5% (2016)
country comparison to the world: 183

Children under the age of 5 years underweight:

39.4% (2010)
country comparison to the world: 2

Education expenditures:



definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.6%
male: 84.4%
female: 68.9% (2018)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 59 years
male: 8 years
female: 7 years (2015)


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:

presidential republic


name: Asmara (Asmera)
geographic coordinates: 15 20 N, 38 56 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
etymology: the name means "they [women] made them unite," which according to Tigrinya oral tradition refers to the women of the four clans in the Asmara area who persuaded their menfolk to unite and defeat their common enemy; the name has also been translated as "live in peace"

Administrative divisions:

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


24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 24 May (1991)


history: ratified by the Constituent Assembly 23 May 1997 (not fully implemented)
amendments: proposed by the president of Eritrea or by assent of at least one half of the National Assembly membership; passage requires at least an initial three-quarters majority vote by the Assembly and, after one year, final passage by at least four-fifths majority vote by the Assembly

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

Legislative branch:

description: unicameral National Assembly (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, and as of May 2019, there was no sitting legislative body
election results: NA

Judicial branch:

highest courts: 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 Afwerki] (the only party recognized by the government)

International organization participation:


Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires BERHANE Gebrehiwet Solomon (since 15 March 2011)
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 (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Natalie E. BROWN (since September 2016)
telephone: [291] (1) 120004
embassy: 179 Ala Street, Asmara
mailing address: P.O. Box 211, Asmara
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; 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


Economic overview:

Since formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced many economic problems, including lack of financial resources and chronic drought. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice. Like the economies of many African nations, a large share of the population - nearly 80% in Eritrea - is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the sector only produces a small share of the country's total output. Mining accounts for the lion's share of output. ++ 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, which began production in 2013. In late 2015, the Government of Eritrea introduced a new currency, retaining the name nakfa, and restricted the amount of hard currency individuals could withdraw from banks per month. The changeover has resulted in exchange fluctuations and the scarcity of hard currency available in the market. ++ While reliable statistics on Eritrea are difficult to obtain, erratic rainfall and the large percentage of the labor force tied up in military 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 are likely to continue to drive limited economic growth and government revenue over the next few years, but military spending will continue to compete with development and investment plans.

GDP real growth rate:

5% (2017 est.)
1.9% (2016 est.)
2.6% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9% (2017 est.)
9% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204

GDP (purchasing power parity) - real:

$9.702 billion (2017 est.)
$8.953 billion (2016 est.)
$8.791 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$5.813 billion (2017 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,600 (2017 est.)
$1,500 (2016 est.)
$1,500 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 197

Gross national saving:

5.5% of GDP (2017 est.)
6% of GDP (2016 est.)
6.8% of GDP (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 174

GDP - composition, by sector of origin:

agriculture: 11.7% (2017 est.)
industry: 29.6% (2017 est.)
services: 58.7% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use:

household consumption: 80.9% (2017 est.)
government consumption: 24.3% (2017 est.)
investment in fixed capital: 6.4% (2017 est.)
investment in inventories: 0.1% (2017 est.)
exports of goods and services: 10.9% (2017 est.)
imports of goods and services: -22.5% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores:

21.6 (2020)

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:

5.4% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52

Labor force:

2.71 million (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 80%
industry: 20% (2004 est.)

Unemployment rate:

5.8% (2017 est.)
10% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95

Population below poverty line:

50% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: NA
highest 10%: NA


revenues: 2.029 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 2.601 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:

34.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):

-9.8% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 209

Public debt:

131.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
132.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Current account balance:

-$137 million (2017 est.)
-$105 million (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91


$624.3 million (2017 est.)
$485.4 million (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171

Exports - partners:

China 62%, South Korea 28.3% (2017)

Exports - commodities:

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


$1.127 billion (2017 est.)
$1.048 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 182

Imports - commodities:

machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Imports - partners:

UAE 14.5%, China 13.2%, Saudi Arabia 13.2%, Italy 12.9%, Turkey 5.6%, South Africa 4.6% (2017)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$236.7 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$218.4 million (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171

Debt - external:

$792.7 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$875.6 million (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169

Exchange rates:

nakfa (ERN) per US dollar -
15.38 (2017 est.)
15.375 (2016 est.)
15.375 (2015 est.)
15.375 (2014 est.)
15.375 (2013 est.)


Electricity access:

population without electricity: 3 million (2019)
electrification - total population: 47% (2019)
electrification - urban areas: 95% (2019)
electrification - rural areas: 13% (2019)

Electricity - production:

415.9 million kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168

Electricity - consumption:

353.9 million kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 180

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145

Electricity - installed generating capacity:

160,700 kW (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 172

Electricity - from fossil fuels:

99% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 22

Electricity - from nuclear fuels:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169

Electricity - from other renewable sources:

1% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152

Crude oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131

Crude oil - exports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118

Crude oil - imports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 122

Crude oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl (1 January 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127

Refined petroleum products - production:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140

Refined petroleum products - consumption:

4,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183

Refined petroleum products - exports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151

Refined petroleum products - imports:

3,897 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 179

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121

Natural gas - proved reserves:

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:

597,100 Mt (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 182


Telephones - fixed lines:

total subscriptions: 116,882
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1.94 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 137

Telephones - mobile cellular:

total subscriptions: 1,226,660
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 20.36 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159

Telecommunication systems:

general assessment: woefully inadequate service provided by state-owned telecom monopoly; most fixed-line telephones are in Asmara; cell phone use is limited by government control of SIM card issuance; no data service; only about 4% of households having computers with 2% Internet; untapped market ripe for competition; direct phone service between Eritrea and Ethiopia was restored in September 2018; government telco working on roll-out of 3G network; in 2019 11% mobile penetration (2020)
domestic: fixed-line subscribership is less than 2 per 100 person and mobile-cellular 20 per 100 (2019)
international: country code - 291 (2019)
note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

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 (2019)

Internet country code:


Internet users:

total: 78,215
percent of population: 1.31% (July 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183

Broadband - fixed subscriptions:

total: 600
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201


National air transport system:

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 1
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 102,729 (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:

E3 (2016)


13 (2020)
country comparison to the world: 152

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 4 (2019)
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 9 (2013)
over 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2013)
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)


1 (2013)


total: 306 km (2018)
narrow gauge: 306 km 0.950-m gauge (2018)
country comparison to the world: 121


total: 16,000 km (2018)
paved: 1,600 km (2000)
unpaved: 14,400 km (2000)
country comparison to the world: 122

Merchant marine:

total: 9
by type: general cargo 4, oil tanker 1, other 4 (2019)
country comparison to the world: 156

Ports and terminals:

major seaport(s): Assab, Massawa

Military and Security

Military and security forces:

Eritrean Defense Forces: Eritrean Ground Forces, Eritrean Navy, Eritrean Air Force (includes Air Defense Force) (2019)

Military and security service personnel strengths:

the Eritrean Defense Forces are comprised of an estimated 200,000 personnel, including about 2,000 in the naval and air forces; note – includes significant numbers of conscripts; it is unclear how many of the EDF's 200,000 personnel are on active duty; many conscripts are reportedly not under arms (2019)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions:

the Eritrean Defense Forces inventory is comprised primarily of Soviet-era systems; Eritrea was under a UN arms embargo from 2009 to 2018; prior to 2009, Belarus, Bulgaria, and Russia were the leading arms suppliers (2019 est.)

Military service age and obligation:

18-40 years of age for male and female voluntary and compulsory military service; 18-month conscript service obligation (2019)

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

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Eritrea is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor domestically and, to a lesser extent, sex and labor trafficking abroad; the country's national service program is often abused, with conscripts detained indefinitely and subjected to forced labor; Eritrean migrants, often fleeing national service, face strict exit control procedures and limited access to passports and visas, making them vulnerable to trafficking; Eritrean secondary school children are required to take part in public works projects during their summer breaks and must attend military and educational camp in their final year to obtain a high school graduation certificate and to gain access to higher education and some jobs; some Eritreans living in or near refugee camps, particularly in Sudan, are kidnapped by criminal groups and held for ransom in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya, where they are subjected to forced labor and abuse
tier rating: Tier 3 – Eritrea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government failed to investigate or prosecute any trafficking offenses or to identify or protect any victims; while the government continued to warn citizens of the dangers of human trafficking through awareness-raising events and poster campaigns, authorities lacked an understanding of the crime, conflating trafficking with transnational migration; Eritrea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2015)