Monthly Archives: February 2015

Foreign Investment: Eritrea, Mining, Development, and the Resource Curse

Several days ago, the Fraser Institute released its annual Survey of Mining and Exploration Companies. Since 1997, the Institute, headquartered in Vancouver and ranked by a University of Pennsylvania study as “the top think tank in Canada,” has conducted an annual survey of mining and exploration companies to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulation affect exploration investment. Survey results represent the opinions of executives and exploration managers in mining and mining consulting companies operating around the world. Notably, the survey has expanded to include data on 122 jurisdictions worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica, and including sub-national jurisdictions in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Argentina.

It is noteworthy that Eritrea, often simplistically labeled as the “North Korea of Africa” or regarded as lacking the “characteristics” and “environment” to make it a sound investment destination, has tended to score within the middle of the pack. For example, on the Investment Attractiveness Index, the country scored 46.7 for 2014 and 57.5 for 2013, ranking it 77 (out of 122) and 48 (out of 112) respectively. For comparison, this places it ahead of Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Venezuela, China, Bulgaria, and Turkey, to name a few. Yet again, Botswana, which has experienced decades of sound economic growth, ranked as the top African country. The survey’s Investment Attractiveness Index is an especially useful measure since it combines several indicators and thus provides a thorough, holistic, multidimensional gauge of mining and exploration within a country or jurisdiction.

Another interesting area within the 2014 report is the Comments section. Here, global executives and managers are able to comment freely (since they retain confidentiality) on the mining and exploration environments of various countries and jurisdictions. In addition to other points, Eritrea was described as being “free from corruption” and possessing a “clearly set-out legal framework which is followed to the letter.”

Ultimately, the survey’s comments and indicators offer some cautious encouragement for Eritrea’s ongoing mining and development initiatives. Dating back to its initial days of independence, Eritrea has been aware of the need for a holistic, multi-level approach towards development, while being alert to the pitfalls of the resource curse. The stagnation – if not outright regression in development – of many countries with great natural resource endowments serve as clear, sobering lessons of the possible consequences of mismanagement. For Eritrea, this has meant that its own approach to development and resources has been cautious, pragmatic, and one where the nation’s resources represent only one variable within the larger equation towards holistic development, rather than a simple panacea. This is most clearly spelled out in a statement to the UN Security Council’s Thematic Open Debate on Conflict Prevention and Natural Resources (June 19, 2013), where Ambassador Araya Desta notes that “[t]he cardinal principle of Eritrea’s mining policy [is that]…all mineral resources are a public property, and that the conservation and development of these resources must be ensured for Eritrea’s present and future generations.”[1]

Amongst the most tangible outcomes of Eritrean developmental efforts are its successes within health and education, especially in regards to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.[2] It is within this broader developmental context that Eritrea’s natural resources and mining activities may prove useful; not only to accrue foreign capital and strengthen the economy, but also to promote continued national development.

Overall, Eritrea has witnessed several tangible developmental outcomes, especially within the socio-economic, health, and educational sectors, and the country’s natural resources hold the potential to augment these outcomes. At the same time, Eritrea is unquestionably faced with tremendous developmental concerns within a broad range of sectors. Challenges such as poverty are immediate areas the country continues to focus on, while the prolonged illegal military occupation of Eritrean land by Ethiopia represents an unnecessary, harmful distraction from broader development goals.[3] Moving forward, Eritrea should continue to promote investment and sound management of resources, while the international community should remain constructively involved in and supportive of Eritrea’s developmental efforts and promote the respect of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

~~Figure 1~~

Investment Attractiveness Index 2014


*Source: Fraser Institute 2014





Further reading:

Fraser Institute:

Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2014:


A Rogues Gallery of Abusive Regimes- CC: “Abesha Institute”

I just wanted to extend a quick “kudos” to @AbeshaT (Abesha Institute) on the latest news of the US’ donation of Hercules aircraft to the Ethiopian military. The Abesha Institute describes itself as an “independent Ethiopian economic and political policy researcher,” and it claims that it focuses on “advocacy on trade policies and geopolitical strategies”. Although I was not aware of this latest development, the Institute ensured that the “wonderful news” did not pass me by. Thankfully, the story also allows me to kindly remind the Institute of the illustrious company that the Ethiopian government is a part of in being generously funded and armed by the US. This list, comprised of governments that systematically abuse(d) human rights, includes (in no particular order):

Indonesia’s General Suharto who, according to the CIA, committed “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century” during the 1965-66 massacres in Indonesia. SEE

Haile Selassie, who was a despotic tyrant who ruled oppressively, enslaved innumerable peasants via a draconian feudal system, and illegally annexed Eritrea. SEE

Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, who overthrew Selassie. Although heavily backed by the USSR, Mengistu also received millions in aid (at the same time!) from the US. Mengistu oversaw a reign of terror characterized by widespread violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. In repressing self-determination efforts in Eritrea and other areas, civilians were deliberately targeted and fell victim by the hundreds of thousands as a result of the indiscriminate violence against them. Further, his regime’s “villagization” program played a direct role in the further nearly half a million civilian deaths during the late 1980s. SEE

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. In 1953, the CIA and British intelligence orchestrated a coup d’etat that toppled the democratically elected Mossadegh government of Iran, and installed the Shah. The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy. SEE

Saddam Hussein, who received critical assistance from the Reagan administration in the war against Iran during the 1980s. Not only did Ronald Reagan turn a blind-eye to the Hussein regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Iraq’s Kurdish minority, but the US helped Iraq develop its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. SEE

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 20 years with dictatorial ruthlessness. His tenure was marked by the cracking down on civil society organizations and journalists, the illegal invasion and occupation of several neighboring countries (e.g. Somalia and Eritrea), the exclusion and marginalization of several of Ethiopia’s major ethnolinguistic and religious groups from political and economic life, the denial of humanitarian and food aid from “disloyal” segments of the country, and a counterinsurgency involving “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” SEE 1 and SEE 2

And to this list, we can add Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and dozens of others generously backed by Washington.* Of course, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the current Ethiopian regime’s “sterling” record. Led by Prime Minister Desalegn, who came to power following Zenawi’s mysterious and abrupt death, the current regime has utilized much of its aid “well” suggesting that the Hercules aircraft will likely be put “to good use”. Specifically, Desalegn has maintained the Zenawi regime’s longstanding harsh policies. Ethiopia has continued to crack down on all dissent via highly-controversial anti-terrorism laws, sustained the marginalization or persecution of various ethnolinguistic groups or homosexuals, retained the criticized villagization programs, and engaged in an ongoing counter-insurgency against the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – utilizing executions, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, and various other abuses. SEE 1 and SEE 2 and SEE 3



*However, due to time and space constraints, I am unable to delve further into these other cases.

George Galloway, MP: Condemns the Ethiopian and Egyptian Regimes

George Galloway, British Member of Parliament, recently weighed in with his opinion on the Egypt and Ethiopia Nile issue. In response to a caller’s question on the Comment live, phone-in show, Galloway, the host, condemned both the current Ethiopian and Egyptian regimes, and stated he’d “be happy to see the back of both of them”.

Recall that Galloway was also a very critical opponent of Egypt’s longtime dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Likewise, Galloway has frequently spoken out against the regime in Ethiopia, denouncing its aggressive, destabilizing role in the Horn of Africa. Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK). Galloway is not new to the politics of the Horn. He visited the region during the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the 1980s, condemning the Ethiopian military dictatorship’s crimes and questioning how it was diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid to combat Eritrea’s pursuit of independence.


Comment with George Galloway (January 29th 2015) is below.


Transcript (excerpt)

Henn (caller from Ethiopia): Yes, hi George, how are you doing? Calling all the way from Ethiopia.

George Galloway: I’m doing well, and the better for talking to Ethiopia. A very long time since I’ve been there.

H: Oh you’ve been here before?

G: I have, in the 1980s, yes.

H: Oh, ok. That is great to hear. Well, we are talking about one country violating the territorial integrity of the other. And I just wanted to bring up Ethiopia into this discussion if you don’t mind, George, because your discussion forum is very open for a variety of opinions, I think.

G: I have no objections; as you’re on the line, say whatever you like.

H: Well, it’s just that I believe you’re aware of the current history between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Nile, and you’re one of the most critical “pro-poor” people, an advocate of the poor that I know of in this current day and age…and I just want to know your opinion about the current situation, and sort of a de-facto confrontation between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Nile. And also if your attitude about Ethiopia has changed over time? I used to hear you saying a number of, let’s say, politically incorrect statements about Ethiopia, that…

G: Oh, please. Enlighten me. Enlighten me, please. Enlighten me.

H: Pardon?

G: Enlighten me.

H: Like, like the country is an agent of the United States, you know…things like that. Which I don’t think are, you know, based on strong foundations (G: Really?).

H: So, we can set that aside, and I just want to hear your input on Ethiopia and Egypt, if you don’t mind.

G: Ok, ok. Well, I’m an opponent of both regimes involved in this argument. I’m an opponent of the Ethiopian regime, which I knew when they were pro-Albanian Maoists, and I’m certainly not any better inclined towards them now than I was then. There is absolutely no question at all that Ethiopia has regularly, in relation to its neighbors, played the role of United States agent. On the other hand, I am one of the leading opponents, I think, of the military junta, which has drowned democracy in a sea of blood in Cairo, in Alexandria, and indeed throughout Egypt. So when it comes to these two regimes, I have no dog in the fight. But I do care what happens to the poor masses in both Ethiopia and Egypt, and that’s why I say that this question of the course of the Nile and the share of the waters has to be negotiated. Has to be negotiated in the context of the OAU, of the African Union as it’s now known, the AU. And it has to be fair to the people of both countries. As for the regimes…I’m very happy to see the back of both of them. But thank you for remembering me.


George Galloway, MP, speaking in the British Parliament on Somalia, Ethiopia, and the UK.

Galloway reveals the British government’s complicity in grave human rights abuses in Somalia, under occupation by Ethiopia in the name on the “war on terror”.

George Galloway in the 1980s, visiting Eritrea/Ethiopia

UNDP and Eritrea’s Women – NUEW: Highlights and Brief Thoughts:

The longest African independence war of the 1900s, Eritrea’s three decades long struggle was about far more than just political emancipation; rather, it sought to usher in a complete and radical transformation of society. An important part of the latter agenda – giving special attention to egalitarian, popular democratic principles – was a particular focus on women’s and gender-related issues. No longer would women be viewed narrowly as secondary, subordinate figures within society; instead, they would stand proudly as full equals to men. Embodying the notion of equality through struggle, valiant Eritrean women served honorably, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly alongside men in the labyrinth-like trenches, on the battlefields, and across the frontlines. Ultimately, women would prove absolutely critical to the eventual achievement of independence. Following this legacy, the Government of the State of Eritrea has made the empowerment of women a national priority, and committed to a development agenda grounded in social justice and gender equality. This post highlights some findings from the recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report, 10 Years: Women in Eritrea – National Union of Eritrean Women. 

  • The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) was established in 1979 with the support of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (NUEW). The focus of NUEW is to improve the status of Eritrean women.
  • Over its 35 year history, NUEW has grown considerably, and in September 2014 it held its 7th Congress. Furthermore, over the past decade, it has forged relationships and shared experiences with a number of sister organizations from within Africa and around the world, including the General Union of Sudanese Women, the Support Initiative for Women’s Empowerment in East Africa and the All China Women’s Federation. NUEW has also participated in key international forums and initiatives championing the cause of women’s rights and empowerment, including the International Women’s Conference in Beijing and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (among others).
  • NUEW’s membership base has grown in numbers: from 178,000 in 2003 to nearly 300,000 in 2013. Its membership now represents a decent percentage of the female population in Eritrea and covers all 6 regions, 66 sub-regions, 681 districts and 2631 villages. Notably, women in the diaspora continue to play a key role at NUEW and in the struggle for gender equality in Eritrea. They serve as ambassadors of NUEW vision abroad and have been at the forefront of efforts to empower women inside the country, politically, socially and economically. For example, NUEW women abroad have mobilized resources and raised funds to build professional training centres and offices for their sisters in Eritrea.
    • As of 2013, organizational activities carried out in 120 secondary schools have increased the number of female student members of NUEW to 26,715. NUEW plans to continue activities that motivate female enrolment in schools until the female to male ratio is a balanced 50/50.
  • Since 2004, 569 NUEW management personnel benefited from training programs on campaigning, awareness- raising, leadership, management techniques, communication skills, budgeting, reporting and monitoring. Other training programs offered for district-level NUEW management have reached 4,442 people since 2009, covering topics including women’s and children’s rights, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, gender and HIV/AIDS, hygiene, and post-partum fistula.
  • More than 5,500 women have benefitted from NUEW legal counselling and educational programmes geared towards increasing women’s knowledge of legal issues.
  • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has worked with the Ministry of Education to eradicate adult illiteracy, both by organizing educational resources and campaigning for the increased participation of women in the programme. Since 2003, nearly 350,000 people – 92 per cent of them women – have participated in the adult education program.
  • NUEW has worked closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to raise awareness of women’s health issues and prevent and treat health challenges confronting women that are caused by poverty and backward traditions. NUEW has conducted multiple seminars and meetings attended by more than 1.7 million people – encompassing 93 per cent women – towards this end.
    Since 2006, more than 1.2 million participants, 73 per cent of them female, have attended meetings on FGM and early marriage. A testament to the effectiveness and importance of these initiatives are rates of FGM/FGC in the country. Whereas Eritrea once had rates of 80-90%, recent health surveys have shown that only 17.7 per cent of young women aged 6-15 have undergone FGM/FGC, while even fewer girls aged 5 and below – 7.6 per cent – were circumcised.

  • It is important to understand that economic empowerment, which refers to the resources and means an individual needs to achieve their desired goals, is an essential prerequisite for political enlightenment and organization.
    • Over the past 10 years, NUEW has recorded a number of impressive achievements toward this end. More than 2.9 million persons – 90% women – have attended nearly 25,000 meetings on women’s empowerment. 47 million Nakfa has been loaned to nearly 12,000 beneficiaries of the Microcredit Program across the country and professional training centres have been established in a number of regions. Remarkably, out of the total amount loaned, upwards of 85 per cent has been reimbursed by clients and is already being put to use for lending to other clients.
    • Over the last decade, NUEW has organized various professional handicrafts and artisanal programs to supplement existing skills. More than 5,000 women throughout the country have benefited from training in clothing design, sewing and embroidery, wickerwork, ornamentation, weaving, pottery, hairstyling, as well as computer applications and typing. Another more than 3,000 women received special trainings in video shooting, home economics, nutrition, doll making, childcare and midwifery. The programs have proven their practical worth by economically empowering women throughout the country.
  • Rural women have also been targeted as, between 2003 and 2011, NUEW allocated a budget of more than 14 million Nakfa to provide more than 11,000 women in remote rural areas with donkeys and water bags. Also, NUEW and partners such as UNDP have supported the women with funds for farming and livestock keeping. More than 1,400 women farmers have received water pumps to cultivate a collective 153 hectares of land. Strong progress has been demonstrated among women farmers as a result and two groups of women farmers have organized for integrated assistance.

Around the world, it has long been the rule that women are inferior, with little to contribute to society. In Eritrea, an old, out-dated, backwards proverb states that “like there is no donkey with horns, there is no woman with brains.” However, from the days of the long struggle and since independence, Eritrean women have proven resilient exceptions to such outdated, patriarchal rules through their wholehearted participation, struggle, contributions, and sacrifice. Today, Eritrean women are contributing in all areas of society and in many diverse, important ways, ultimately playing a crucial role in the country’s general development and socio-economic improvement. It is wonderful to see the large focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is clear that NUEW efforts have led to so many positive developments. Moving forward, we should continue to follow their lead to support women and girls in all aspects society.


Read the full report here:


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