Country Reports

Eritrea Country Report

Content provided by
IHS Markit Logo

Risk Level

Very High


Executive Summary

Political power is being further concentrated and consolidated by President Isaias Afwerki (including the political elevation of his son Abraham), as Afwerki seeks to buttress his rule against demands for domestic reforms. Decision-making is concentrated in the president's office, and lack of transparency in the awarding of contracts advantages politically connected firms.The Eritrean and Ethiopian governments remain committed to the July 2018 peace agreement. However, the Eritrean-Ethiopian border will likely remain largely closed while Ethiopia's elections are indefinitely postponed (likely held in mid-2021 at the earliest) and the COVID-19 outbreak continues in either country. The immediate implementation of the 1997 constitution (currently suspended) or other social-political liberalisations are unlikely during 2020. Instead, the government will likely make only modest policy changes, such as increasing national service (conscript) salaries, reducing the size of the military, and redirecting affected conscripts into civilian work. This will disappoint popular expectations, increasing the risk of military mutinies and urban protests during 2020.The government’s employing of Eritreans conscripted under the National Service Programme – which the UN has characterised as tantamount to slave labour – puts commercial operations at international reputational and legal risk over forced-labour accusations.UN sanctions relief in November 2018 encourages increased international investment in Eritrea, gradually increasing the state's access to funding and foreign currency, in turn decreasing the risk of revenue-seeking through irregular tax demands and arbitrary regulatory fines against investors.Eritrea's rapprochement with Ethiopia has led to a steady resumption of economic ties, with increased air transport, trade, tourism, and port activities (pre-COVID-19), but the economy remains agriculture-dependent. We forecast Eritrea’s real GDP to contract by 2.5% in 2020, owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and desert locust swarms. The fiscal burden remains high, characterised by unsustainable budget deficits in double-digit percentage territory and public-debt levels well over 100% of GDP. Payment constraints persist as foreign-currency demand significantly exceeds supply.
Last update: September 19, 2020

Operational Outlook

Eritrea's strategic location and operational environment offer tremendous potential in areas such as mining, tourism, and fishing. However, the absence of a clearly defined legal system, poor infrastructure, abundant red tape, and scarce energy makes operating difficult. Foreigners continue to face severe restrictions to their movements, complicating daily activities. Corruption is also a growing problem undermining private-sector activity. Eritrea's highly centralised government is considered more of a hindrance than a facilitator to doing business, despite its stated commitment to attracting foreign investment. Indefinite conscription and related allegations of forced labour pose reputational risks for foreign companies.

Last update: August 22, 2020



Terrorism risks are low, and threats from Ethiopia-based groups have decreased further following the 2018 peace declaration, but low-level attacks by armed opposition groups pose a threat to foreign companies. However, there have been no such reported incidents since March 2015 when the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) vandalised equipment at the Bisha mine and destroyed trucks transporting cargo to Massawa port. In eastern Eritrea there is a low risk of small-scale attacks by the ENSF and the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) against foreign and military assets.

Last update: August 22, 2020


Although no figures are published for crime or for the prison population, ordinary crime rates are assessed to be low and are generally opportunistic or alcohol-related. There are infrequent incidents of corruption reported in the civil service. Draft evasion and army desertion are regarded as crimes and are treated harshly. Political opposition is also regarded by the regime as a crime and punished in the same way. The death penalty is in use for both civil and political prisoners. Female genital mutilation is still widely practised, although formally outlawed by the government, and domestic violence against women is reportedly common.

Last update: August 22, 2020

War Risks

Interstate war risks with Ethiopia have significantly decreased following the 2018 peace declaration and the countries' subsequent partial withdrawals of troops from along the border, despite Eritrea's ongoing closure of the border. Both governments remain committed to peace and neither side is likely to provoke fighting over unresolved issues relating to trade terms, border demarcation, and communities to be left on the 'wrong side'. However, the Eritrean-Ethiopian border will likely remain largely closed until after Ethiopia's postponed elections (likely held in mid-2021 at the earliest). Eritrea rejoining IGAD would indicate further improvements in relations with neighbours Sudan and Djibouti.

Last update: August 22, 2020

Social Stability


The Eritrean government will likely use minimal domestic reforms (particularly shifting conscripts from the military to assigned civilian work at state-owned enterprises, and wage increases) and security-forces repression to mitigate rising protest risks, amid demands for wide-ranging reforms following the 2018 peace declaration with Ethiopia. Rare protests in central Asmara in October 2017 and March 2018, triggered by the arrest and subsequent death of an Islamic elder, highlight increased risks of sporadic social unrest. The government has faced a growing level of opposition domestically in recent years, as suggested by the high number of young Eritreans fleeing the country.

Last update: August 22, 2020

Health Risk


Vaccines required to enter the country

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.

Vaccines recommended for all travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines recommended for most travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines recommended for some travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Meningococcal meningitis: This is recommended for travel to the "meningitis belt" area of the country during the dry season (December to June). There are several types of meningococcal vaccines. None offer full immunity and some require periodic booster shots. Consult your doctor to determine which is best for you depending on medical history and travel plans.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Eritrea is situated along the East African Rift, a highly active seismic zone. There is a risk of earthquakes and volcanic activity; the Nabro volcano last erupted in 2011.

Furthermore, there is a heightened risk of flooding during the rainy seasons (January to February and June to August), including along wadis (normally-dry riverbeds). There is also a risk of landslides in the west and in regions of higher elevation from May to August. 

Last update: April 5, 2019


Last update: April 5, 2019


Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information


The climate along the coast is arid. Heading west to the central highlands, conditions become cooler and more humid. Winters are mild and summers very hot along the Red Sea coast. Precipitation is heaviest in the highlands (lighter rain in March-April, heavier rain from late June until August with the risk of flooding).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +291
Police: 1 127 799
Ambulance: 1 112 244


Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz


Last update: April 5, 2019