Eritrea Economy - 2021


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Economic overview

Since formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced many economic problems, including lack of financial resources and chronic drought. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice. Like the economies of many African nations, a large share of the population - nearly 80% in Eritrea - is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the sector only produces a small share of the country's total output. Mining accounts for the lion's share of output.

The government has strictly controlled the use of foreign currency by limiting access and availability; new regulations in 2013 aimed at relaxing currency controls have had little economic effect. Few large private enterprises exist in Eritrea and most operate in conjunction with government partners, including a number of large international mining ventures, which began production in 2013. In late 2015, the Government of Eritrea introduced a new currency, retaining the name nakfa, and restricted the amount of hard currency individuals could withdraw from banks per month. The changeover has resulted in exchange fluctuations and the scarcity of hard currency available in the market.

While reliable statistics on Eritrea are difficult to obtain, erratic rainfall and the large percentage of the labor force tied up in military service continue to interfere with agricultural production and economic development. Eritrea's harvests generally cannot meet the food needs of the country without supplemental grain purchases. Copper, potash, and gold production are likely to continue to drive limited economic growth and government revenue over the next few years, but military spending will continue to compete with development and investment plans.

Real GDP growth rate

5% (2017 est.)

1.9% (2016 est.)

2.6% (2015 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

9% (2017 est.)

9% (2016 est.)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$9.702 billion (2017 est.)

$8.953 billion (2016 est.)

$8.791 billion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$5.813 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$1,600 (2017 est.)

$1,500 (2016 est.)

$1,500 (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Gross national saving

5.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

6% of GDP (2016 est.)

6.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 11.7% (2017 est.)

industry: 29.6% (2017 est.)

services: 58.7% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 80.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 6.4% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 10.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -22.5% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 21.6 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 52.9 (2020)

Trading score: 0 (2020)

Enforcement score: 55.9 (2020)

Agricultural products

sorghum, milk, vegetables, barley, cereals, pulses nes, roots/tubers nes, wheat, millet, beef


food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles, light manufacturing, salt, cement

Industrial production growth rate

5.4% (2017 est.)

Labor force

2.71 million (2017 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 80%

industry: 20% (2004 est.)

Unemployment rate

5.8% (2017 est.)

10% (2016 est.)

Population below poverty line

50% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA


revenues: 2.029 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 2.601 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

34.9% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-9.8% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

131.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

132.8% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$137 million (2017 est.)

-$105 million (2016 est.)


$624.3 million (2017 est.)

$485.4 million (2016 est.)

Exports - partners

China 62%, South Korea 28.3% (2017)

Exports - commodities

gold and other minerals, livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small industry manufactures


$1.127 billion (2017 est.)

$1.048 billion (2016 est.)

Imports - partners

UAE 14.5%, China 13.2%, Saudi Arabia 13.2%, Italy 12.9%, Turkey 5.6%, South Africa 4.6% (2017)

Imports - commodities

machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$236.7 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$218.4 million (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt - external

$792.7 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$875.6 million (31 December 2016 est.)

Exchange rates

nakfa (ERN) per US dollar -

15.38 (2017 est.)

15.375 (2016 est.)

15.375 (2015 est.)

15.375 (2014 est.)

15.375 (2013 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding Eritrea on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Eritrea 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Eritrea 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.