Development Progress, a multi-country research project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that the reason for Eritrea’s progress is “the high prioritization of health and education and a strong commitment to development among Eritreans.”
In February 2012, the World Bank noted that, “the government of Eritrea recognized the importance of improving its human development indicators and reaﬃrmed its commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Understanding the negative impact of the ﬁnancial and institutional constraints on the social sectors, and in order to sustain and increase the gains made during the ﬁrst ten years of independence, the government pledged to increase public spending and prioritize acceleration of the education sector development.”
In Eritrea’s 2011 Comprehensive Response to the Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, the government indicated that, “investments to expand and deepen primary and secondary health care, as well as education, improving access to clean water and sanitation, urban and rural electriﬁcation, and ensuring food security have been reasonably successful. All these investments are undertaken with special focus on the full participation of women and minority communities in the process of national development.”
The response goes further in providing the following milestones for 2011:
a) Total school enrollment grew to over 600,000 today from less than 200,000 in 1991
b) Eritrea is one of the few least developed countries that has been certiﬁed by the World Health Organization as a polio-free country
c) Malaria has for all practical purposes been eradicated
d) More than 75 per cent of the population now has access to clean water (As of 2013, this number has increased to 85 per cent)
e) Health services have been extended to even the most remote villages of the country
Eritrea’s success demonstrates that progress and development do not necessarily need to be linked to conventional development aid. For example in 2011, Ethiopia received $3.5 Billion USD in Oﬃcial Developmental Assistance (ODA), Kenya received $2.4 Billion USD, Sudan received $1.1 Billion USD, Uganda received $1.5 Billion USD, Rwanda received $1.2 Billion USD while Eritrea received only $163 Million USD. Despite the enormous ﬁnancial aid ﬂowing through these neighboring countries, Eritrea is matching or surpassing these countries.
With respect to literacy, available data from 2007 demonstrates that Eritrea beats at least 12 African countries including Malawi, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Morocco, Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Benin, Chad and Burkina Faso.
Similarly Eritrea has been able to signiﬁcantly reduce the under-ﬁve child mortality rate and is on track and leading over countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Furthermore, Eritrea was noted to have the fastest reduction in infant mortality rate in the region which was attributed to “increased access to healthcare services by investing in the reconstruction of destroyed facilities, training for health workers, and increased provision of drugs and equipment, as well as proactive and maximum coverage of immunization against the major killer diseases.”
The MDG Report on Africa for 2010 reaﬃrmed that Eritrea is making progress due to its “committed political leadership”.
Finally, what should be emphasized is that Eritrea is going to prevail and the secret of its success will be its steadfastness, determination, resolve and support of its population.
Time Magazine wrote the following about Eritrea’s struggle for independence: “They won by force of character, a unity and determination so steely not all the modern armaments, super power support or economic superiority of Ethiopia could withstand it.”
Similarly, Eritrea’s detractors may attempt to divert and obstruct nation building but if history is any indication, it will set the bar for Africa.