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Highlights of Interview with President Isaias Afwerki Part III  – on domestic issues

  • Identification of our development priorities for the current year – within the comprehensive medium to long-term developmental roadmap and framework that was charted out in 2019 – is relatively evident. These are indeed predicated on three fundamental and interlinked parameters: i) water infrastructure; ii) energy; and iii) critical physical infrastructure to include roads, railways etc.
  • In terms of water infrastructure, the task is not limited to construction of big dams. It includes whole gamut of interlinked measures such as afforestation, terracing, utilization of subterranean water etc. that must be pursued at the village and sub-zoba levels throughout the country and with full participation of local administrations and the wider public.
  • The country may have accumulated more than 500 million cubic meters of water in the big dams constructed so far. But this is not adequate in terms of the latent potential.  More importantly, effectiveness will be measured by transition to irrigation, utilization of selected and appropriate seeds, and above all our human capital in terms of optimal organizational and technical capacity.  This has not materialized so far.
  • In regard to Eritrea’s potential in the blue economy, President Isaias underlined that the country’s endowment in fisheries is huge as the annual maximum sustainable yield (MYS) is estimated between 80,00 to 120,000 tone. 60% of these are small pelagic fish which may not yield huge export revenues.  Still, 40% constitute different species for the high-end export market.  But due to infrastructural bottlenecks – harbours, energy, and associated facilities, the exploitation of marine resources remains limited at about 10% which does not fully cover domestic demand.
  • Tourism, other marine-based minerals such as salt etc. are substantial resources which have yet to develop within the Government’s Coastal Development Strategy. The potential for wind, solar and geothermal energy is also considerable.
  • In mining, President Isaias noted that the country’s mineral resources – Gold, copper, potash, construction materials, cement etc. – are exceptionally huge. These endowments – even if finite – will have considerable catalytic contributions to the country’s current and future economic development. But the mineral extraction projects implemented so far cannot be viewed as yielding optimal revenues in so far as they are not fully processed (80% in the case of Gold and bulky concentrates for copper) in the country for critical value addition.  The ultimate aim in exploiting these resources should therefore be geared towards full processing and refinement within the country.

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