This 1993 report is useful. It was a baseline for looking at the country immediately after independence.
The UN were preparing a master plan to help Eritrea recover from 30 years of war. “The Eritrean authorities are contemplating the necessity of using the Master Plan document as the basic document for the Donor’s Conference for Eritrea in June 1994.”
Two deals were signed in that year with UN bodies:
- Basic Agreement between the United Nations (United Nations Development Programme) and the Government of Eritrea concerning assistance by the United Nations Development Programme to the Government of Eritrea. Signed at Asmara on 11 June 1994,
- Basic Agreement between the World Health Organization and Eritrea for the establishment of technical advisory cooperation relations. Signed at Brazzaville on 25 November 1994 and at Asmara on 20 December 1994.
It looked as if relations between the Eritrean government and the international community would be good. This is what President Isaias had to say:
“… All these problems are compounded several fold because there is no
real economy one can speak of in Eritrea today. As a result, the fruit of
rehabilitation, reconstruction and development programmes already
underway or those that the Government hopes to launch in the period ahead
will not be felt for some years to come.”
“The situation is desperate to the extent that even the most urgent
economic rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes that cannot be
postponed any longer cannot be initiated without substantial resources.”
“Under these bleak realities where virtually the entire society is in a very
precarious and vulnerable situation, the repatriation process cannot be
contemplated as a separate undertaking which can be pursued in its own
right in the usual conventional sense.”
“Indeed, to embark on repatriation, desirable and urgent as this is, without
creating the conducive environment would be tantamount to damping the
returnees into a much more worse predicament. Such an exercise will
immensely aggravate the overall situation of the recipient communities and
exacerbate the precarious reality perhaps to a degree beyond any remedy.”
“The considerations dictate that the repatriation of refugees be firmly rooted
on, and be linked with, programmes of rehabilitation and recovery of the
society as a whole. The exercise must also be framed within the long-term
development strategies and plans of the Country.”
H.E. Mr. Isaias Afwerki
President of the State of Eritrea
Eritrea Pledging Conference
Geneva, 6 July 1993
An Extract from the UN Economic Commission for Africa report on Eritrea
The Eritrea’s economy has been devastated by thirty years of war, recurrent droughts, environmental degradation, and economic mismanagement in the past. War damage has affected residential houses, schools, clinics and hospitals, and government offices. What was once, towards the end of the colonial period, one of the best infrastructures in Africa, is in ruins in several parts of the country from the destruction caused by the war, and lack of maintenance. Bridges and roads are damaged; railway has been completely dismantled; electricity is sporadic and urban water systems leak up to half their supply. Hardly a house has escaped bombardment in the coastal port of Massawa.
The Government has also inherited extremely weak institutions as a result of the war and the campaign by the Mengistu regime to relocate enterprises and agencies from Eritrea to Ethiopia.
Agriculture has been seriously affected by the prolonged war, drought and environmental degradation. The military conflict displaced farmers, reduced the availability of agricultural inputs, destroyed extension services, and contributed to environmental degradation through the destruction of soil and water conservation systems.
It is estimated that food production fell by some 40 per cent in the 1980s, while the livestock sector has shrunk from more than 3 million to 1 million animals. Although the rainfall in 1992 has been high by historical standards – in contrast to the drought for the past three years – farmers continue to face a severe shortage of seeds, fertilizer, oxen, and credit.
The industrial sector has also been badly damaged by the destructive war and the negligence of the previous regime. Most industrial plants, that are not already closed, are operating at around 25 to 30 per cent of their capacity due to severe shortage of energy, and foreign exchange to buy spare parts and inputs. Telecommunications, postal, and banking services have deteriorated seriously. The manpower resources and local capabilities have also depreciated as a result of the war. This has especially affected the Government’ s capacity to put together an experienced, professionally trained administration.
The prolonged war has resulted in large numbers of refugees, displaced people and unaccompanied children. The estimates provided by the Commission for Eritrean Refugee Affairs (CERA) suggest that there are around one million Eritreans abroad. The largest number, ranging between 300,000 to 600,000, are said to be scattered over 48 refugee camps in Sudan. Most of these refugees come from the provinces bordering on Sudan and are extremely poor and live under harsh physical conditions.
Within Eritrea, there arenearly 50,000 unaccompanied children; the breakdown of the families associated with warand droughts has left thousands of children as destitutes, orphans and disabled. It is estimated that some 50,000 spontaneous returnees from Sudan have already come to Eritrea. These numbers, however, are based on quick assessments by the CERA; there is a need to build more accurate data base for the country.
Data on Eritrea are extremely scanty. There are no national income accounts, no trade or balance of payments figures, almost no banking statistics, some rudimentary accounts of revenue and expenditure over the past twelve months, and no aggregate price or wage statistics. A population census needs to be conducted, including the hundreds of thousands of refugees that are likely to return over the coming few years. There are some data on the social situation and particularly on the food security situation gathered by a Leeds University team which conducted surveys in 1987/88 and 1991. There are also some data available in Addis Ababa which would need to be examined to construct time series data. It is apparent that a long-term effort is required to reconstruct a data base for Eritrea.
Having inherited a shattered economy as a result of the prolonged war, the Government has announced that its immediate objectives are to reconstruct and rehabilitate the essential economic activities to jump-start the economy and to move to set a link between the short, the medium and the long term through an holistic national programme approach.