Is Eritrea the Next Singapore of Africa?
What does the future hold for Eritrea? What are the possibilities of Eritrea becoming the next success story, a nation with the potential to change the trajectory in the horn of Africa and become an example?
Eritrea has the resources, location, and most importantly, the people who have demonstrated they can withstand all types of pressures from all angles of the world and thrive.
After thirty years of armed struggle, Eritrea gained independence, and the people rejoiced for days on end. Eritreans were hopeful and aspired to build a solid and vibrant nation and often mentioned Singapore as a model. However, US sanctions and prolonged wars slowed Eritrea and curtailed its ambitions.
In Nov 2018, the UN lifted the illegal US-instigated sanctions. Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace deal. Two years later, Eritrea became the latest African country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, connecting Eritrea to China and nations linked with the belt and road initiative.
How did Eritrea overcome these significant challenges and avert existential threats?
Eritrea survived and is enjoying relative success because of the qualities of the people of Eritrea. Because of deeply embedded principles established during the struggle for the Independence of Eritrea.
Eritrea is in a perfect position to take off and achieve success. So, it is time to raise the question that many Eritreans have talked about for years.
And the question remains, is there any truth to the aim?
Have Eritreans embraced the goal of becoming the next big thing and rising like Singapore in the Horn of Africa?
Some important and interesting facts about Eritrea and Singapore are two unique nations with similarities.
Of course, there are vast differences. Eritrea is one of the most strategic countries with resources rich in the beginning stages. On the other hand, Singapore is established as one of the most influential and prosperous countries in the world.
Physical size: Singapore is about 164 times smaller than Eritrea. Singapore is approximately 719 sq km
While Eritrea is approximately 117,600 sq km, making Singapore 0.61% the size of Eritrea
Population: According to the latest United Nations data, the population of Singapore is almost six million people, 5,925,614, and Eritrea’s population is a little over 6 million.
Values: Eritrea and Singapore have similar values. The people of Eritrea are humble and honest. The leaders are grounded, principled, and incorruptible. That is the reason Eritrea managed to survive in one of the most corrupt and corrupting environments
On the other hand, Singapore is a symbol of honesty. Singapore is the least corrupt nation in Asia and globally. There is a lot the world could learn from Singapore.
Family values: Eritrea and Singapore place the family on top of their priority. In Eritrea, Marriage is the basis for the family. Eritreans believe a healthy marriage and family life ensures social stability and improves the quality of life for all members of society.
In Eritrea, the idea that it takes a village to raise a child is a fact of life. Eritrea is a communal society with the parents as the head of the hierarchy.The government of Eritrea takes concrete steps to support and protect marriage and family.
Singapore espouses similar values. The parents teach their kids good traditional manners while the government plays an essential role by empowering the parents.
Environment: Singapore has a national tree planting day on November 7th.In Eritrea, the entire population is planting millions of trees throughout the year.
According to Eritrea’s Forestry and Wildlife Authority, individuals plant 45%, the community cultivates 36%, students and institutions plant 17% through the students’ summer work program, and members of the Defense Forces plant the rest.
The people of Singapore utilize public transportation and like to walk. The emphasis on public transit is excellent. As a result, cars are costly and discouraged.
Eritreans love walking and cycling. Eritrea has a vibrant cycling culture.
National Security: Singapore demands all Singaporeans to contribute to the nation’s security and has compulsory military conscription of 1-2 years called National Service. However, women are not conscripted.
In Eritrea, men and women must serve. Originally Eritrea’s National Service was supposed to be 18 months. Unfortunately, the existential threat Eritrea faced over the last 22 years has forced Eritreans to remain in a constant state of alert that undermined the duration of the National Service program.
Education: The Government of Singapore attaches great importance to schools, offers a high quality of education, and subsidizes various educational programs.
During the struggle for Eritrean independence, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, the EPLF, attached great importance to education and fought illiteracy in all corners of Eritrea.
After independence, education is free in Eritrea. From kindergarten to higher education, Eritreans pay zero tuition fees. As a result, Eritrea is one of the most literate countries in the world.
George Mason University sent a student group to do an eyewitness report and a documentary about Eritrea. The university students were surprised by what they found in Eritrea.
In an interview, one of the students, Rana Ghiassi was asked, As a female, you might have been eager to know about the gender equality that still seems to be an issue in many other countries of the world. Please tell me about your observations of this country regarding gender issues.
“Rana: I’ve just been mind-blown the whole time. The first stop was a college that we went to, and when I found out the education was free, I was really surprised and amazed. And then we asked questions about gender equalities in the schools, just about the males and females in the school. And the professor was questioning why we would even ask a question because you are taught not to even compare the two in this country. I felt honestly embarrassed to ask a question about gender and if there is equality because it’s taboo not to have equality, and I really appreciated that. The women here seem free, and I feel like they have confidence. And I think the confidence is given because the country has given women security because I witnessed the women’s security. There’s more confidence and energy in just existing and having their kids run around freely. I would say I’m a little jealous of the women of Eritrea because they don’t have to be afraid to leave their houses.”
Health: Singapore has a world-class healthcare industry, infrastructure, and technologically advanced system with experts, doctors, and specialists. Singapore has a public-private partnership in healthcare financing that provides the highest levels of the health care system. Singapore is renowned for its healthcare environment that is clean, efficient, and safe.
Eritrea attaches a great deal to the nation’s health care, and despite all the hurdles it faces, Eritrea has made a significant stride in the healthcare field. The EPLF, from the beginning of the struggle, uniquely focused on public health and addressed the nation’s healthcare issues pragmatically.
Eritrea gives priority to child and maternal health. Eritrea has done a great deal to develop a holistic approach to health care. Eritrea promotes equitable, accessible, and affordable health services to the majority of its citizens. Eritrea believes all Eritrea children deserve healthcare no matter where they reside. Eritrea made healthcare a priority and invested in the health sector.
According to the UN, Eritrea’s child mortality rate is one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, 37 per 1,000 live births as of 2020. Despite the challenges, targets, and indicators, it shows that as of 2013, Eritrea has achieved all three health Millenium Development Goals or MDGs; MDG-4 on child health, MDG-5 on maternal health, and MDG-6 on combating HIV/AIDs, Malaria, and other diseases.
Why is Eritrea achieving all these goals ahead of many underdeveloped countries?
Eritrea invests in effective health-facility delivery services, family planning, nutrition interventions, immunization, and control of infectious diseases. Health care in general and maternal and child health care, in particular, are accessible in Eritrea.
In 1991, life expectancy in Eritrea was 49. In 2021, life expectancy in Eritrea was 69, while in Africa, the average life expectancy remains at 63.
National Security: Because it faces various threats from many angles, Singapore is a security-wise nation. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Singapore is the world’s 5th largest arms importer.
Eritrea is historically one of the strongest armies that have proven formidable. The people of Eritrea have faced the US, Israel, Cuba, Soviet Union, and Ethiopia for decades and remained intact. Eritrea is located in one of the world’s most volatile regions and yet managed to establish relative peace.
Eritrea has the city of Asmara as a world heritage site for its beautiful historic city and buildings.
Singapore boasts a 156-year-old Botanical Garden, the only tropical garden with a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition.
History: Eritrea was central in the North Africa Theater of World War 2. The British and allied forces defeated the Italian Army in Eritrea in 1941.
In Singapore: the British forces defended against attacks from the Japanese troops in Singapore from 1940 to 1941.
Eritrea and Singapore attach great importance to their people’s health, education, and safety. Economically, technologically, and militarily, Singapore is a first-rate, highly developed country. Singapore excels because it has a stable political climate and a centralized, pragmatic, rational political culture based on law. The government prioritizes the survival and prosperity of Singapore and is not afraid to make unpopular and hard decisions to safeguard the nation’s interests. The government is proactive and always thinking about the future. As a result, Singapore boasts a competitive, open business environment free from corruption.
Singapore is a knowledge-based economy that attracts foreign investments, which enabled Singapore to diversify its economy. Today, Singapore is a research and development (R&D) hub for biomedical and other industries. It is also the healthcare destination of the world, especially in Asia.
Its open trade policies, social stability, world-class infrastructure, and international communication links are why it is the banking and finance center and why foreign investors flock to its shores. And using one of the busiest ports globally, Singapore focuses on electronics and chemical exports to more prosperous industrialized nations.
Singapore became a prosperous nation because early on, the people made necessary commitments and sacrifices to ensure the nation’s health, education, safety, and security. Early on, Singapore took advantage of its comparative advantages and built a thriving country with hardly any resources but the people.
Eritrea is a much bigger country than Singapore. Eritrea has various resources, including natural gas, oil, gold, zinc, copper, potash, salt, Granite, and many more are identified, including gypsum, asbestos, feldspar, sulfur, and mica. Eritrea has an expansive coastal location that has played an essential role in global trade, history, and culture.
The Red Sea was the route by which the world’s greatest religions, Islam and Christianity, reached Africa, and it was an important trade route that attracted world powers such as Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and the US.They all hoped to dominate world trade routes by seizing control of Eritrean ports.
Eritrea has also a much more diverse topography that affects the climate in the country. Different elevations throughout Eritrea provide a wide variety of climatic conditions.
The low lands of Eritrea have one of the world’s highest temperatures. On the coast city of Massawa has one of the most elevated average temperatures globally. It is in the mid-80s F
In contrast, the capital city of Asmara has a very moderate pleasant temperature year-round, about 30 °C. The western parts of Eritrea are slightly warmer but pleasant year around.
The EPLF, from its humble beginnings, focused on a nation-building approach that focused on the people’s health, education, and well-being. It also made establishing the social, institutional, and infrastructure a priority, involved the people, and ensured they owned their destiny. It is that mindset that is helping transform Eritrea.
After World War Two, after South Africa, Eritrea was the second most developed nation in Africa. However, after the defeat of Italy in WWII, Britain dismantled and robbed Eritrea as war booty. Ethiopia also transferred critical aspects of the Eritrean economy to Ethiopia.
After independence in 1991, Eritrea was forced to focus on the fundamental rebuilding of the nation while under extreme duress and managed to ensure food security, high levels of educational success, and mortality rate reductions and positioned Eritrea to kick off while facing existential threats for over 20 years.
That success results from unwavering and incorruptible leadership buttressed by solid support from the people who understand and are experienced. They are patient, focused, committed, and willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure a bright future.
Like Singapore, Eritrea has made all the right moves. And it is positioned to become the next big developed economy in the coming bright future of the region and the continent of Africa. Eritrea has more possibilities. It is in a perfect global location on the Red Sea; it is full of resources and brilliant people with many cultures, experiences, and attitudes.
As proven by history, Eritrea has the brilliance and wit to carry it through anything and succeed. How Eritrea won independence is a gauge and points to a bright future. Eritrea is a nation with an attitude that always screams, yes, we CAN DO it.