Eritrea: Africa’s Economic Success Story

If a contrast is needed to be drawn between political freedom and economic independence in Eritrea, which one do you think should come first? 

A contrast between Liberal Democracy vs Economic freedom in Eritrea

By Daniela Kirkby,

Despite the Eritrean government’s indifference to the political wellbeing of its people  – in terms of democracy, the philosophy regarding the economic liberation of  Eritrea is noteworthy. The government’s perceived grasp on the “existing realities” and its  goal to become “equal partners with everybody” led Eritrea to having the  fastest growing economy in 2011, this according to ‘The World in 2011’ report  published by The Economist.1 In  2011 Eritrea’s economic growth rate was 17%, larger than that of Qatar and  Ghana.2

Not wanting to promote dependency, most notably on foreign aid and donor  funding, Eritrea has managed to place itself in a position where local  resources are used to their full potential, thus increasing the country’s rate  of development. Governing Eritrea with an almost military style precision has  assisted the country meeting many of their Millennium Development Goals  (MDG’s). While Eritrea has not shown progress in all the targets, the majority  of these goals show that there has been no deterioration either.3

Successes  include increasing access to primary education, reducing the child mortality  rate, improving maternal health, reducing the HIV & Aids infection rate as  well as reducing the spread of other infectious diseases and ensuring  environmental sustainability. Access to safe drinking water and adequate  sanitation has also increased and the country’s agricultural sector is booming.4

Since 2010, Eritrea has become  one of only a handful of African countries that do not require food aid. Most  importantly, however, is the fact that the majority of Eritrea’s population  (80%), is employed in the agricultural sector. Due to the Government’s efforts  in creating dozens of micro dams, introducing modern farming techniques and  purchasing equipment worth millions of dollars, the majority of the population  is now able to have three farming seasons in one year, which as a consequence,  has halved the price of food by 50%.5

On a continent that is plagued by issues of dependency – made worse by complete reliance on foreign investors, financial and humanitarian aid as well as non-profit organizations, Eritrea, has been accused that its absolute determination to emancipate itself from such perceived continental doldrums is at the expense of liberal democracy.

The question that remains is, which should come first? Liberal democracy or economic emancipation? If the government continues to increase standards of living, it will continue to generate legitimacy despite the absence of liberal democracy.

1) Should the Eritrean government continue to keep in good order the political institutions needed to develop the country; will liberal democracy and the life that it represents become less important on the agenda of Eritreans?

2) Are Eritreans willing to sacrifice political freedom in exchange for their economic well being?
An intense debate is requested on the above subject matter. Leave your comments and opinions below. Your participation is highly apperciated.


(1) ‘Eritrea Achieved  Tremendous Success in Health, Education and Food Security-All without Donor Aid’, New African Magazine, November  2011,
(2)  ‘Eritrea has the fastest growing economy for 2011-Economist’, Madote News,  December 2011,
(3)  United Nations Development Programme website,
(4) Ibid.
(5)  ‘Eritrea Becomes Food Secure’, Madote News, 29 May 2011,


20 responses to “Eritrea: Africa’s Economic Success Story

  1. If you do not go to Democracy, Democracy will come to you.Sadam and Gaddafi are good examples.

  2. Come on …..

    For me it is like prioritizing to conduct an interview with a hunger stricken person about how painful his hunger is than providing him with something to eat or drink first and have the interview later. We shouldn't mix them up.

    Simply, ask CHINA.

  3. There is a difference between 'Democracy' and Political Freedom.
    Democracy in the 'original term of the Greek word' does not really exist today and in those countries where it is practiced, people have 'natured' to it by understanding their 'rights' and fullfiling their 'obligations'. The latter usually preceeding the former and in this respect 'Political Freedom' is the price to pay at first!

  4. Where is Iraq today? Iraq is run by they the Shia and they are a ally of Iran. Lets not talk about Iraq the Civil was and is a nightmare.

    And Libya is a country were the political future is uncertain.

    No thank you those to examples are not a example for Eritrea I prefer
    political systems like in Singapore, Malaysia, or china. Develop first then implement Liberal Western Political systems.

  5. Mind you if the leadership ca't feed it is pepeole and give aportunty to do so.
    And it is practical ca't provid thru democrace.
    Eritrea is in the right path to good democrace, Thanks to our leadr ship.

  6. As Costas said Democracy does not really exist nowadays plus why does every country on earth have to be Democratic??? I life in a so called Democratic country and it has failed ohh sorry i have to correct myself almost all of them have failed….. so why do you want to be one of those countries, nahhh thanks i would say u watched and learned so u make it better for the sake of ur people.

  7. Tesfai K.
    Last we heard is that 'hunger' in Eritrea is about to be evicted. She was seen walking to the
    court house in Asmara, Eritrea. She was heard saying to some one she knew that she has no doubt
    about the court's decision to evict her. She said that her exit visa is likely to be ready for her to pick. Her acquaintance said… as far as I am concerned no matter how much me and you know each other,
    I wish the court decides on your eviction right away… but then where will you go? Where will you be
    evicted to? Who will give you an entry visa? 'hunger' said… well, that may not be a prblem….
    a friend from the oppostion to the Eritrean government in the Diaspora said 'hunger' try to stay there for a while because you are our political instrument… if you are not there. our hopes and aspirations will go down the drain. Try your best, to stay…. if you can't, we wil lmake sure to find you an entry visa… in fact it won't be too far from Eritrea, where you are used to… just few miles south of the border :-). So, there is some hope that I maY find a place to go…

  8. The philosophy of sell-relliance is not a problem in itself, and therefore philosophically the path taken by the Eritrean government is not a matter of polemics, it is quite interesting and deserves credit in what it has achieved. Unforunately, the main problem is this economic model is largely based on national service labour, meaning that the youth is forced to work an undefinite period of time for the government for a very low salary.
    The model is economically, politically and philosophically interesting, but it needs to be modified, in order to guarantee the young eritrean individual to be self-sufficient (ability to maintain a family, ability to create businesses, ability to participate in local politics).

  9. When Eritrea achieved its independence the independence was not simply to wave your own flag and follow the failed states in the continent. To the contrary those who brough the air of independent Eritrea have promise to their fallen comrades that full freedom can be achieved when you are in equal footing with your partners. Being a bagger is not going to bring the independence that we all hoped for. And the only path was to work hard and achieve the goal while working to full freedom of the country, that include a democratic institutions. However, do you to the unwanted war waged against the nation, it was obvious to buckle the belt tighter and double the effort to achieve the goal, this time without any deterance.
    While the country is officially at war with Ethiopia it achieved the grate economic and social criterum that is target in MDG.
    Now, putting our feet stable first, and feeling our stomch first, educating ourselves first, health wise treated rightly… we can view with healthy, educated, and confident mind what we can do on the political arena if indeed that is our priority, while the enemies are still enemies that are waging different wars including economical, and brain drain wars.

  10. Question number two in this article is irrelevant. "Are Eritreans willing to sacrifice political freedom in exchange for their economic well being?". The writer makes it sound like we do not have political freedom and that we agree to that. We are concerned about our country's political well being first because we believe that a rich ewalthy means wealthy people. We have the political freedom that we need, thank you! The fact that Eritrea is growing fast and well is just a big fat result of our political governance or management.

  11. The government & the people of Eritrea are on the best way. Democracy with out good economy can not stay even one year. Have you ever seen real democracy in Afrika ?

  12. who cares about democracy or name it what ever you name it guys
    all what we need in Eritrea is justice, freedome of speach and above all the young lives of Eritreans
    who are dying in the desert of egypt or in the meditrenean sea some one must be accountable
    must be brout to justice we need the rull of low Isayas afwerki is not god he must answer a lot of qustions not Sulaiman Abbe's questions on tv. questions asked by ordinary Eritreans.
    In Eritrea today there are success storys as well as failiers so some one must take responsibility !!!

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  15. Why would you not post the whole article rather than post the part you want. This is disingenuous. Also you claim to stand for freedom of press and you select an article that support government that squashes the very freedom you stand for.

  16. WHAT we need in Eritrea first and for most is peace among ourselves then with our neighbours and all humanity and then the rull of low ''represented in the constitution'' and @ last but not least justice!!!
    to support what I mentioned just have a look to all the projects which were on the ground before the 1998 war with weyane they were destroyed by the Ethiopian tanks, even the Electric plant in Hirgigo was
    targeted by Ethiopian planes likly escaped with minor damages.
    so lets work hard for peace not war.!!!!!

  17. TesfaNews stands for freedom of speech and that is why your ugly comments remain posted here.

    As for the part of the article that you are asking for, I believe you know where to find it: Everything good will be reported here … and everything ugly will be reported on woyanne funded sites like –,, and etc…

    So if you are an Eritrean, good things about Eritrea shouldn't bother you much… unless otherwise you are an asshole Woyanne foot soldier.

  18. I am confident that Eritrea is following the correct path to economic and social development. The government of Eritrea is accountable to the people in particulat the 90 percent of population which peasant and working glass . These are the people who brought the armed struggle into fruition and therefore the government is giving them all the pririty to them. So how can we define then a Democratic Country? A democratic country is a country which gives priority to its people in terms of education, healh, basic infrastructures and technical assistance. Eritres is providing all this to her people. If we see African countries in the name of democracy, people are misguided and are electing people who exploit and sabjugate them. As far as the people are not having any improvement in their daily life I do not think that democaracy can be a panacea to all the diseses as far as the leaders are accountable to the people they govern. Erittrea is lucky that she has politically and ideologically well prepared government that puts all its effort to the well being of the people. Tesfa

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