Eritrea's Development Context
Eritrea’s development aspiration is to achieve rapid, balanced, home-grown and sustainable economic growth with social equity and justice, anchored on the self-reliance principle. The Government places emphasis on community and individual rights as well as issues of social justice, such as access to education, health, food and equitable access to services regardless of locality.
Soon after independence in 1991, Eritrea formulated and implemented socio-economic development policies and strategies, attaining an average annual growth in GDP of 7%. Marked improvements were made in key sectors for the period up to 1997. However, a border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia (1998-2000), which escalated into a full-scale war, reversed the gains and GDP dropped sharply to an estimated 1-2% for the period 2007/2008.
The unresolved no-peace-no-war border stalemate remains a major impediment to the Government’s developments efforts as a number of possible national socio-economic initiatives and resources remain tied to the border stalemate. However, more recently, there have been signs of good economic prospects as investments in the mining sector continue to grow, with GDP growth projections of 6% in 2012 and 7% in 2013.
Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa region, where arid and semi-arid climatic conditions prevail. The country is therefore, vulnerable to adverse effects of climate variability, recurring droughts and environmental degradation, hampering development efforts. The economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population depending on farming and pastoralism yet arable land accounts for only 12% of land use.
Persistent drought has had adverse effects particularly on the vulnerable communities, groups and households (especially the female-headed). The country’s socio-economic conditions also suffer drought effects. Furthermore, the border conflict has left large areas of land unused due to unexploded landmines especially the prime fertile agricultural regions of Gash-Barka and Debub considered as the “bread baskets” of Eritrea.
Despite these challenges and setbacks, Eritrea has made remarkable progress towards its own development goals and aspirations. The Government has endeavoured to protect the most vulnerable segments of the population and to implement its long-term development policies.
It maintains an extensive social safety net, investing in three priority areas: food security and agricultural production; infrastructure development; human resources development.
Moreover, it is one of the few countries in Africa that is making steady progress towards achieving the health related MDGs (4, 5 and 6, i.e. reduction of child mortality; reduction of maternal mortality and combating HIV and AIDS). Even though scarcity of data does not permit comprehensive conclusions, the country appears to be making good progress on the crucial area of environmental sustainability.
However, much still remains to be done especially in MDGs 1 and 2; eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and attainment of universal primary education, as all indicators are below target.