Eritrea is a small coastal state on the Red Sea with a population of 5.9 million. The official languages are Tigrinya, Arabic and English. In 1952, the UN established Eritrea as an autonomous region within the Ethiopian federation, ending British administration. A 30-year struggle for independence ended in a military victory in 1991. Eritreans voted for independence in a referendum two years later. A peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000 is yet to be fully implemented and their shared border is heavily militarised and remains closed. Eritrea’s autocratic president, Isaias Afwerki, has led a notionally-socialist government since 1993. The government is accused of a range of human rights abuses.
Eritrea has a very large subsistence agriculture sector that is vulnerable to recurrent drought. Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than half the population being subject to food insecurity. The country has considerable mineral wealth but economic growth is hampered by centralised planning. Remittances are important to the economy. Australia's Fred Hollows Foundation has had a long relationship with Eritrea working to eliminate avoidable blindness caused by cataract and trachoma.
Australia's diplomatic representation to Eritrea is from the embassy in Cairo.
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