Eritrea: Africa’s Economic Success Story

News Opinions

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?


(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,