Eritrea’s Unhurried Development

Eritrea: What does not kill you only makes you stronger
Eritrean economic development policy based solely on investment rather than foreign aid.

By Berhane Woldu,

THE year 2012 was a good year because many friends were in Eritrea visiting family and touring the country. Those who went out to different parts of the country and saw the different development projects were very much impressed with Eritrea’s achievements and her future prospects.

On the other hand, those who stayed put in Asmara were disappointed. Their complaints, rightly so, were that Asmara is neglected. However, what I want to remind these souls is that the Eritrean government economic policy is Social justice and equal distribution of development in all six regions based on the Golden Principle of self-reliant Economy and political process free from external pressures and dependency. 

In 1991, Faced with a zero economy, no viable economic institutions, no sustainable infrastructure in education, health, socials services and transportation systems; Eritrean government started a holistic development program towards economic emancipation and prosperous nation. Based on the Cardinal principle of Social Justice; meaning that those who have been on the underside of history must see that there is a qualitative difference between repression and freedom.

And for an Eritrean, freedom translates into having supply of clean water, electricity; being able to live in a decent home and having a good job, to be able to send our children to school and have accessible health care for all covering the whole country regardless of how remote or inaccessible the area may be.

In the first ten years after independence, Eritrea had spent over a billion US dollars on infrastructure, power plant, roads, dams and social services (schools, hospitals, clean water electrification). The government shifted from centralized to rational development programs though privatization and, developed a liberal Macroeconomic program in 1994 to attract foreign investments.

Eritrea’s economic environment is different from most developing countries. Eritrea’s economic development policy is based on investment rather than foreign aid.  Eritrea’s political, social values and norms are also much different. Political stability, location, low corruption, inexpensive skilled and industrious labor force gives Eritrea comparative advantages. Energy, mining, agro-industry, construction, tourism, marine resources offer good opportunity for investment. And understanding these opportunities, many foreign firms and capital had started to flow into the country.

The country was registering 7 to 10 % growth. In 1998, after the war of aggression Eritrea’s economic development took a different strategy. Most of the foreign currency reserve was used to defend the country. Foreign investments left the country. Eritrea in 2004 imported $514 million dollars of consumable goods and exported $95million with a trade deficit of $423million dollars. Basing their assumptions on these economic measures, Economic experts in Western countries forecasted that Eritrea will cease to exist as a nation due to the collapse of it economy.

As it is the norm however, the strong willed people and the leadership Eritrea today have overcome these challenges and are in a much better position than most of her counterparts. What has been attained to-date is a miracle. One can testify to these accomplishments by looking at the major economic sectors i.e. Agriculture, infrastructure, health, and education.

The Eritrean government set the strategic priorities regarding development programs that require large capital expenditure sectors by sector; infrastructure, Agro-industry, health, and education. In order to build these needed infrastructures and related development projects, the Government formed many national construction companies like Segane, Bidho, Gedem and others.

To highlight few infrastructure construction projects and accomplishments undertaken by these companies;

The Keren to Tesenei road, Nefasit to Dekahmare , Mendefera Barantu, Asmara to Zalambesa, Asmara to Mereb, Mendefera to Adekyeh, Keren to Selea, Akordat to Sawa to Girmayka , Massawa to Assab. These infrastructural projects have made it possible for internal handling and transport of goods within a short time interval. In Africa on average it takes 1.5 months to transport goods to port, in Eritrea however, it takes much less. In-addition to the roads, these companies had built projects worth $1.2 billion estimated cost of construction of residential housing, $350 million dollars cost of hospitals and government office, $1.5 billion water supply dams.

To promote sustainable development and to achieve food sufficiency; development of Agro industries was necessitated. Agro-Macro policy was devised, Irrigation based agriculture was introduced to increase output and create surplus in cereal corps, vegetables, fruits, and livestock. Dams, micro-dams and water diversion schemes were constructed. Animal husbandry, poultry and honey farms are new industries popping everywhere in the country. Food sufficiency has been achieved and, export markets are being developed. In order to be competitive and export high value-added agricultural products, the Agro-industries have created a post-harvest system, sanitary standards and technical requirements in packing and labeling. Eritrean government has invested large sums of foreign currency to meet export requirements and standards. Proclamation No. 170/2012, Legal notice No. 121-123/ 2012 has fulfilled the incorporation of Agro- industry and requirements for traceability of export products and marketing.

Realizing the need for skilled labor, education being the fundamental right that all nationals are entitled to; Eritrean government built elementary, junior and secondary schools everywhere even in the most remote areas. This is done to assure access, equity, quality of education and to promote the relevance of education in order to attain balanced educational system across the board. Seven colleges and one university were constructed to provide higher education. The University of Eritrea Institute of Technology which has six thousand (6,000) students is being expanded with four modernly equipped laboratories and four five story high building for each discipline.

Eritrea is certified amongst the first African countries for its endeavors on health management system. Skillful management system with well-equipped health care services is one from which Eritrea is best renowned. Health for all is the motto in Eritrea. The health system provides sustainable and excellent health care that is effective, efficient, accessible, acceptable and affordable to all citizens. Access to health care is available in an area of 10 kilometers radius. 75% of the population lives in an area of 5 kilometers from a health center. HIV/AIDS is the lowest in Sub-Sahara Africa 96% of children receive the necessary vaccination. 95% of the urban and 78% of the rural area now have clean water. Eritrea in the last 15 years have eradicated communicable and non-communicable diseases i.e. Malaria, Polio, Small pox and many other. Has lowered infant mortality rate and is providing good health services in all corners of the country.Eritrea’s health expectancy stands at 65 years old the highest in Africa.

If you think building a few high rise apartments and shopping malls for the very few rich people to enjoy life is what you call economic development while millions of your citizens are deprived of health care, education and clean water then yes Asmara has been neglected and nothing has been achieved. However, one needs to understand that Eritrea is not a country where foreign colonial powers using their local puppets run the country for their selfish gain.

Eritrea is a country that is built on shared sacrifices and as such all it citizens benefit equally. The Eritrean people and its leadership are humble, honest, and down to earth and not sick with self-gratification. Some of us minimize the achievements that the country has achieved with little resources or don’t really understand the workings of a nation building and economic emancipation. Hence, we come to our own wrong uneducated conclusion. In face of all things Eritrea is unhurriedly marching to economic prosperity.


25 thoughts on “Eritrea’s Unhurried Development

  1. Social justice or social poverty? Are you an advocate of the people or the government? Did we die and fought for one man show party system? Don't we deserve constitution,elections and free speech? Does Asmara have to go down to earth for the sake of the others? And is this self reliance? Berhane, self reliance begins with the individual and you keep up what you have built and let the others march forward. Asmara was a symbol of Africa let alone Eritrea. We should have kept its beauty, cleanliness and services. I've no problem to see the remote areas develop infact it is my motto but if it is as you put it why are thousands ofb young Eritreans abondoning bthe country? There is no equal distribution per se, it is just politics for PR purpose. We need change, it is time for young and dynamic leadership. Let us give them the legacy but HGDEF should retire and rest.

    1. Snit, I second you on that!! But to put it out there for the HGDEFawyan, did the rural areas in Eritra get more electricity last summer because of the lack of it in asmara? That is what they are tries to sell us here, a BIG hoax!
      Many African countries are doing more with paid labour than ours is doing with "free" slaves. Look at kenya, 20 years after independence(1983) they had more schools, more health institutes, more access to infrastructure etc. and all these without neglecting the big cities.

      Besides, when did development based on slavery be a good thing? I would rather die poor than submit my people into slavery…it all arrested development!

      1. I

        I beg your pardon Abraham, who sold you the 'BIG hoax' by claiming ''the rural areas n Eritrea get more electricity last summer because of the lack of it in Asmara'' . I don't know where you got that, but it certainly is not from Eritrean Government. Didn't you heare what the president himself had to say in his 2013 new year interview he gave to EriTv regarding the issue of power cut? I suspect of you haven't silly boy . I will post the clip of the interview below but suffice to say he couldn't have been more clearer and detialed with his explanation. The main points he made are

        1. II

          1 Cuts in Asmara due to power being diverted to power Massawa Cement Factory. For your info, MCF is given priority as it is producing cement for export to Qatar for the 2018 World Cup they are hosting

          2 To mitigate the power divert, one of the top priorty for 2013 is to build a dedicated supply to power MCF.

          3 He understood peoples frustration and the need for increased electricity supply, but for the time being Eritrea is not in the possition to build new power station due to the high cost associated (we simply can not affored it)

          So bonehead, where in his interview does he claim luck in Asmara with gain in rural areas. Abraham, why do you continuesly post lies? Are you addicted to it or is there something wrong with you? I realy think you are a disturb individual. Get help fast. Now, put your listing ears and LISTEN from the first second[youtube lNAvPv9agpI youtube]

          1. Thanks daniel for your effort trying to educate a confused citizen. He won't get it even if you built a school on his head. LOL
            His main problem is he doesn't want to understand Eritrea at all. For him governing a country with out access to loans and vibrant economy is like a cake walk. There are no short cuts in Eritrea. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) comes either from the sale of natural resources or raw materials and we as a matter of fact, all are not that developed well at this stage because of obvious reasons. Never compare Eritrea with countries that never had war and invasion in their entire history. Most importantly, never compare Eritrea with your life in the west. Admit that we are poor but we are struggling against all odds to bit that out. If electricity cut persists it must be due to understandable reasons but not because Isaias want it keep it all. Your obsession with Honorable PIA is killing you. Well, too bad but he ain't go no where! Get that fact clear and move on.

          2. What are you telling me Daniboy? DIA is taking the little electricity our population has for other projects? How was this decided, by parliament (never seen them since 2000), board of experts on macro economy, or experts on electric distribution… Ohhh, the first time we heard about this was during DIA's new year speech… Well 6 months too late isn't it? Did he mention this during his town meeting in zoba debub in November 2012? Coz ppl did bring this up there.. No mention of contract to deliver for world cup then, 5 months after the shortages….but 6 months later "Ohhh, I forgot to tell you we have a contract..blah..blah and therefore til 2022 you guys have to use less….!!!! Danielboy, wake up!
            Do you know how little electricity Eritrean populatin has acces to compared to the rest of Africa? and by prioritizing export of cement how little would we have, for hiw long?
            Do you know of any plans to increase this in say 5-10 years?
            Coz, you do believe DIA when he says "we need investments to cultivate the private sector now that we have put the infrastructure (read:road, electricity..) on place"
            If this is how our electricity is to be rationed you can forget all about the companies the regime has put out to sale on share based, they will never produce anything worth anything for a while.

          3. Abraham, you ask,

            ''What are you telling me Daniboy? DIA is taking the little electricity our population has for other projects?''

            Are you an imbecile to such a degree to make such a moronic statement? I give up.

        2. Aye Daniel, nas tserfi koynu sirahka? I don't know what you are doing, but my comments were to the article above and NOT to the interview of DIA (Ohhh, that also calls for another discussion….). The writer says "Social justice and equal distribution of development in all six regions based ….." . And I was pointing out one sector being the electricity problems encountered as an example of the rural part not benefiting from loss of that in Asmara.
          So before jumping to insults maybe you can read and understand, know where u are and be relevant my friend. For now you are forgiven, for you know not what you were doing;-)

          1. So there was no 'BIG Hoax' after all?!! I am confused…………….

            Other bloggers please help me understand what he is on about, cause I'am totally lost.

      2. Abraham

        You giving Kenya as a good example actually makes me question your thought process. Eritrea can achieve what Kenya has achieved easily, all needs to be done is a willingness to let Indian and British citizens control Eritrea whilst leaving the native Eritrean to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

        For me, Kenya is a good example how not to let your citizen down by giving a control to foreign investors. Most Kenyans live like a second citizen in their own country. I had a discussion about this with a Kenyan guy one time, and many Africans I know used to get frustrated when we discuss about the situation in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Next time, try to dig a bit deeper and know about the subject you're advocating to before making a ridiculous statement as this.

        1. For your info, I have lived in kenya too and know a little about the way things work there. Who do you think is building and doing the brain-work in eritrea, our engineers? Think again, 'tikalat' like tele/tv/radio are operated not by the educated eritreans (and we do have many in this field) but by indians/Yemenis!!…ask me why, I would say for surveillance, ear-dropping, how convenient since foreigners don't care when asked to monitor anyone. If you go to adi, take a trip to the operating centres of this high tech places, only Eritreans you will see are drivers, tea cookers etc.

          1. Abraham,

            May be you’re talking about Ethiopian TV and Telecom whereby EthioTelecom (managed by French), EthioElectric Corp. (Managed by Indians). LOL

            Guys, do we’ve another Eritrea elsewhere? How can a guy who is hell bent to oppose anything Eritrean wants to be more Eritrean than us? He is saying we don’t have engineers but drivers or our engineers are not trusted but Yemenis ……. this guy must have lost his marble big time.

          2. Abraham
            I think you misunderstood the point i was trying to make. Sembel housing complex was built by the Koreans, mining is primarily done by the Canadians and Australians, and I have no problem with foreigners doing a short term construction or development etc if they are more equipped to do that. That happens all over the world. My problem is that only when they become a first class citizen and start to live in their own so-called 'exclusive gated communities' areas, whilst the native Africans are seen as insignificant and forced to live in a rat-hole in their own country, just like in Kenya and South Africa.

            Actually, I quite prefer a well established construction companies like The BAUER Group to do most the infrastructure in Eritrea. The quality of their work speaks volume. But, considering the budget in Eritrea, it'll be very difficult for the government to do that. Even, the Aid-darling countries seem to prefer the cheap China these days.

          3. Agree. But in regard to the Yemenis, the positions they hold today WAS held by our own engineers. They did the lions share of the implementation and operations routines were put in place by our own guys. But now they are all removed and replaced by dollar paid foreigners. Now I don't know what their plan is but this is not development based on local expertise and for sure not sustainable. Actually this is reverse of what you mentioned aboved, our own experts are replaced by foreigners and it just doesn't make sense. Does it?

          4. I've never heard Yemenis doing any construction in Eritrea. It's news to me. I would have thought Eritreans will be more qualified to do the job than Yemenis as we have large number of amazing engineers. I have several immediate family members and relatives involved in this sector, but now working oversees like Uganda, Dubai and Juba since the government passed the law prohibiting private construction companies from operating there. I was in Eritrea couple of months a go and I stayed there for 8 weeks and I don't recall of seeing any Yemeni construction workers or engineers. If you have a tangible evidence then give us the link. As far as I know majority of the construction is done by the government, while some is also done by Chinese.

            I think you just have this intense general hate towards the government and you only see what you want to see. I do get some of your points. But, believe it or not, there are good things happening in Eri and there're are somethings I don't necessarily agree with. Overall, we have to give a credit when credit is due, it's amazing to see some of the achievements with so little against all-odds. Some of the so-called intellects was ready to write Eritrea off from the face of the Earth not so long ago. We are still standing regardless. And I can only get better from now on.

  2. Guys, I have nothing to add to what you already said except to say, how can we know if the guy is a citizen at all? As far as I´m concerned, he can easily be from south of our border.

    1. Anyone who has a concern, and a different point of view and opinion is automatically labeled "a person from the south". Just amazing!

  3. Abraham,

    Why are you obsessed to downplay the challenges Eritrea faces? And why do you overplay the shortcomings? You lack balance. In the history of nations 20 years is like the puff of wind.

    Take into account the starting point of Eritrea after independence and the consequent No Peace / No War, despite all those challenges much has being achieved. Eritrea lacks money, therefore there must be priorities because money does not come from heaven like manna.
    The revenue streams of the Gov. will increase over the next decade, especially after 2016, but it will take a few years to see the results on the ground. Of course the other way it would be to take debt and saddle future generations, as debt is the easy for outsiders to control you. But that will be counterproductive to the national interest in long term.

    Therefore, the specific development course chosen by Eritrea is the right way, because incremental increases help you build a more sturdy nation in long term. The West build itself up over a period of centuries, and yet you give the impression of demanding Eritrea to do it in 2 decades.

    After reading your responses to Daniel, I want to respond to 1 specific point you made about "Social justice and equal distribution of development in all six regions based ….."
    In my opinion the priority given to rural areas is justified as 75/80 % of the population lives there. Plus would you criticize the Eri. Gov. if it looked after Asmara and ignored the mostly farming communities of Gheter Ertra? Would you?

    I feel it is very important to take into account the starting point challenges, without whitewashing the good achievements, then you could have a more realistic picture of the situation. However, its seems to me you will always take a contrarian position. Correct me if I am wrong about that impression.

    Thank you.

    1. Nine Kamels,
      Some ppl here have the patience even to engage someone who intentionally emphasized on faults and downplays achievements despite the challenges. He used to compare Eri with where he lives and at times with neighboring countries.

      Talking of electricity, well I can give an example from where I live right now- Kampala. It’s been straight 5 years the people of Uganda suffers from “Power Shedding” they used to call it. Five years despite being the darling of donors and gifted with nature. If you get light at night without interruption, it will be a talking issue in the morning as it is strange phenomena. Everywhere you go, people run generators to do business. They took it as is it’s a norm these days.

      Come to Eritrea, this load shedding begins with the start of the cement factory and the mining companies. At first when Bish start commisioning, the same thing happens as it needs more energy to run the giagantic crushers and other machineries. Priority was given to spend the first income from the sale of golds to build its own stand alone power plant. Now it is off the national grid (except to use it as an immergency).

      The samething is true with the Cement factory. It’s a giagantic structure and it consumes lots of energy. If we aren’t short of money or have the right to borrow money from international financial institutions, we would have built the power plant together with the factory but we don’t have the money nor the previlage to borrow. So it’s natural to use the national grid but not with out putting some towns and villages in darkness.
      Now the factory is producing in maximum mainly for export purpose to generate the much needed hard currency to buy its own generator for instance.

      I believe a certain Chinese company has already took the contract to expand the Hergigo power plant and from what we heard in Asmara the problem only will last until mid April of this year. After that problem will be over and cement products will start to surface in the local market to blow out the construction needs in the country.
      But critics and sadist like the above dude Abrham, they would like us to believe it is the administration that intentionally want to keep the ppl in dark for fear of revolution at night …. aha ahaha aha aha ahah

      Come on get a life. I wonder why the admin of this site allow you to wonder for such period of time downplaying the sacrfices made by the hard working ppl.

    2. Nine Kamel, maybe there is something in your impression of me I don't know. But there are a few things you have to consider here. All positive achievements though very good , we should never forget on what terms and whose blood, sweat and back they are coming to live. They, more or less all of them are from forced labourers, we can call it volunteer, sacrifice etc. but we all know how this is done… The youth are FORCED to work in all the above projects and very few if any do that freely. Meaning, what most of us call sacrifice/volunteer is basically forced labour/slavery. So forgive me for not celebrating when there is good news regarding regime projects because deep down I know (so do you too) what was behind its being.
      And I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes…. A good example is the mine at bisha, the cement plant in Massawa, roads and housing projects around asmara. Our youth is used against their will in these projects, and they are paid close to nothing.

      In regards to the response to daniel, yes i agree that there should be justice in delivering services to all parts of the country. BUT my point was, this should not be an excuse and be misused to justify shortcomings.

      All this though negative in many ways, would have been easier to accept if the regime was a legitimate one.

  4. In support of the above link:

    SFECO‘s web site has announced the Hirgigo Power Plant project alone is to cost US$100 million to bring the total value of the contracts to US$165.5 million. I don’t think it should cost that much to expand the power plant by 46MW considering that the cost of building the original plant at Hirgigo with grid line spanning through four of Eri’s six regions was accomplished for less than US$160 million. It seems this expansion is coming with long distance grid (probably to Gash Barka or some other electrical project attached to it). In less than a year since its arrival to the country, with the latest agreement and the completion of Zara purchase from Chalice, SFECO has secured a total of US$341.5 million deal outperforming any public or private entity that do business in Eritrea. This should give it SFECO a pretty good jump start in deepening it’s relationship with Eri and open the opportunity with other Chinese companies to do much more business in the coming few years. Until we hear some other players to make major news, SEFCO is the name to watch when you’re looking for good news coming out of Eritrea.

  5. As far as investment is concerned, in the short term our Capital might have taken a back seat compared to other part of our region, however she is and always be Asmara shikor….

    Dedicated to you all TesfaNews cyber friends and Compatriots..

    United we stand, divided we fall!

    enjoy[youtube eUODFPZUMik youtube]

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