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Africa's newest independent country makes a promising start as a regional distribution centre

E ritrea is on a quest to build its nation with sweat, not debt. Though impoverished by its war for independence, Eritrea is rich with spirit, resourcefulness and knowlege. The country has made a vow to recreate itself with the expertise of its people, not foreign capital. Since winning their independence, Eritreans have turned their energies inward, building self-sufficiency and rejecting any outside help that does not move them further toward political and economic autonomy. Eritrea's leaders, part of the rebel movement-turned government, are determined to remain fee from the influence of governments that ignored their struggle, and to avoid mistakes made by other African countries in the post-independence era. The country's watchwords are improvisation and self-reliance. A symbol of those watchwords is the Eritrean government's huge endeavor to rebuild the 73 mile railroad which once ran from the port of Massawa across the desert and up through the mountains to the cool highlands where the capital, Asmara, lies. For twenty years it was an efficient system, carrying freight and passengers, and was the largest employer in the country.

company in africaThe railroad, first built by Italians, stopped running in 1974. It's rails were disassembled for other uses during the long war with Ethiopia. The track was torn up and scattered across the hillsides. Steel sleepers were used in trenches and tunnels during the war and by villagers to build their homes. The rolling stock was left to rust. The huge railyards in Asmara with sheds, workshops, stores and foundries were abandoned, dismantled, scattered and plundered. The engine turntable was buried under tons of earth. Soon after the war, it became clear that Eritrea needed to rehabilitate the railway to take pressure off of the over-used two-lane road which moves goods from the port to the capital and cities farther inland. Every afternoon the road is jammed with trucks laboring up the mountains at five miles an hour. Rebuilding the railroad is a daring strategy for Africa's newest nation.

Unable to pay foreign contractors the millions the project was estimated to cost, (Italian engineers estimated it would cost at least $500 million), the Eritreans have conscripted their own countrymen. President Isaias Afwerki has called dozens of former railroad workers out of retirement and put them to work. At first the older railroad mechanics could not believe their ears when they got the call from the new president. Some grumbled that they were too old to pick up a hammer again.

In a few days, however, they all came to work in their outdated overalls and engineer caps. Rather than borrow millions of dollars from foreign banks, the government is using donated food to pay people to build the railroad and to work on other projects. “We have the capacity for self-sufficiency,” President Afwerki said in an interview. “We don't believe aid can solve our problems.” The average annual income in Eritrea is less than $150 per person, and two-thirds of its people need food aid.

Today, hundreds of workers armed with picks and shovels have extended the railroad many miles inland from Massawa. “In less than three years time we will have a railway running from Massawa to Asmara”, Amanuel Gebreselassie, coordinator of the Railway Rehabilitation Project, stated in an interview. That confident approach is typical of a country whose independence war motto was: “Never kneel down”.


Eritrea Begins Sourcing From Dubai

african ladyThe United Arab Emirates has been supplying goods to Eritrea not only for its local consumption but also for distribution to neighbouing markets in Sudan and Ethiopia - the largest markets in terms of size and consumption in the region. The geograhical proximity of the UAE makes it an ideal trade partner for Eritrea. Goods from UAE are shipped directly to Eritrea and then onwards to Ethiopia and Sudan. The fact that these countries do not have a well developed manufacturing base means that they have to import most of their requirements for consumer and capital goods.

At present there are only approximately 2,500 manufacturing enterprises in Eritrea. Most of the 730 enterprises which were in existence as on May 24, 1991 were more than 20 years old (the oldest going back 10 1901). About 500 have been established after liberation. Manufacturing units which were established and run by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front during the liberation war for the production of plastic shoes, sanitary towel, baby food, bandage, macaroni, plastic household utensils, knitwear and engineering workshop products have been merged to related state enterprises. Export for 45 state enterprises, all the rest are privately owned. Most of them are owner operated and single proprietorship serving customers in their immediate locality.

Currently, the sector which is in need of modernisation and rehabilitation is very much dependent on imported raw materials, spare parts, machinery and know-how. The major current manufactures of the country are composed of
a) Food - flour, bread, canned food, pasta, biscuits, sweets, vegetable oil, butter, cheese >>> Beverages:-beer, liquor, soft drinks , mineral water >>>Tobacco:cigarette, chewing tobacco
b)Textiles:- fabrics, yarn, garments, knitwear, sacks, twine, sweaters, blanket, bed sheet, towels.

Business Advise

african businessEritrea is a new and upcoming country. Therefore, opportunities for trade and business are plenty. The country is still in the process of building its infrastructure and establishing its presence in the world of international trade and commerce. Though relatively small in size, Eritrea has emerged as the gateway to the huge markets of Sudan and Ethiopia. Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia. The two major ports of Eritrea, namely Assaib and Massawa, are located along the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Therefore, Eritrea’s importance as a regional centre for trade and distribution can never be underestimated. There are a few easy ways to make your presence felt in Eritrea and neighbouring countries like Sudan and Ethiopia.

The growing use and influence of the Internet can also be harnessed to promote your business in the African markets. By posting your business proposals on the African Classified Advertisements section, you can expect direct responses from your business counterparts in African countries. Employing the growing influence of Internet technology to promote your business in international markets is one of the most simple and effective promotional tool for forward-looking enterpreuners. Simply post your message and wait for the results. Simple!

An even better way to promote your business interests in Eritrea is by contacting your business counterparts from the Africa Business Directory of Eritrea which offers you the opportunity to communicate directly with your business counterparts in Eritrea. The E-Mail Directory of Eritrea can also be utilised to obtain useful information on local market conditions and to assess the prospects of marketing your product/s in the Eritrean market. Not to mention the chances of meeting some very helpful, interesting and enterprising people from Eritrea!

Last, but not least, add your company to the Advertising Section of the Africa Business Pages. The Advertising Section will carry a full page editorial about your company as well as two pictures of your company's products. In addition to this, your company will also be provided with a direct link in the Business Links section. By promoting your company on the Africa Business Pages you can reap rich dividends. An absolute essential for those targetting the African market. Browse through some samples before taking a decision.

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