Basic Country Data

Eritrea is Africa’s newest independent republic having gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. It lies to the north of Ethiopia and forms part of the North East African Region. The capital city is Asmara (also spelt Asmera). Other major towns are the ports of Massawa and Assab (also spelt Aseb) and Decamere.

Eritrea has an estimated 1995 population of 2.7 million people. The official language is Tigrinia but Arabic, Afar and Somali are also spoken. The government is committed to a freemarket economic system and has announced plans to reduce its holdings in some 40 public enterprises. Reliable economic indicators on the performance of the Eritrean economy, however, are scarce as the country has only recently gained its independence after a long civil war. The country retained the Ethiopian currency, the Birr, after independence. (US$ / Birr – current exchange rate).

The Eritrean mining and oil industries are key elements in the economy of the country. Eritrea has considerable mineral and oil potential although there has been little exploration activity so far. The downstream oil industry is also well-developed following government policies to encourage its development. There is a refinery at Assab which supplies the local market as well as neighbouring Ethiopia. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Eritrean Electricity Authority.

The international time zone for Eritrea is GMT +3 and the international dialling code is +291. There is an international airport at Asmara served by Ethiopian Airlines. As at January 1996 all visitors require visas in order to visit Eritrea.

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