The infrastructures built during the colonial period were destroyed by the wars that affected the country during the twentieth century: the conflicts aimed at independence lasted for thirty years and ended in 1991, the war with Ethiopia then, which broke out in 1998, interrupted the reconstruction processes started in the past seven years of peace (in the late nineties of the twentieth century, in fact, the government of Asmara favored a modernization and diversification of manufacturing activities in order to attract foreign investments). At the beginning of the 2000s, Eritrea was facing a chronic shortage of food supplies, with high rates of unemployment and illiteracy and still found itself without a real market economy. In 2008, the GDP was 1,476 million US $ and that per capita of only US $ 295. Drought and famine often hit the country. § Main economic resources of the residents are agriculture, pastoralism and fishing in the Red Sea. As for the agricultural sector, the strong point are cereals, grown on the plateau, oil seeds, legumes and sisal: cotton is a crop both in the lowlands and on the slopes, while tobacco and coffee grow well on the slopes. Spontaneous essences are the dum palm (vegetable ivory is extracted from the core of its fruit, used for buttons), sanseviera, aloe and senna. It should be emphasized that, even in the years of peace, Eritrea has never achieved food self-sufficiency and has always needed international humanitarian aid. § The zootechnical patrimony mainly includes sheep and goats, then cattle, camels and donkeys. § Fishing, particularly practiced in the Dahlak Islands, gives, in addition to fish (mainly tuna, sardines and sharks), pearls, mother-of-pearl and shells trochus. § The industry, inherited from the colonial period, was based on a modest but diversified production: glass factories, cement factories, paper factories, tanneries and breweries were concentrated in the area of the capital. Unfortunately, however, after a phase of privatization that began in 1995 which brought significant improvements, with the outbreak of the war with Ethiopia almost everything was destroyed and the entire sector is now to be rebuilt (2008). § The presence of various minerals was discovered in the subsoil: gold, copper, iron, manganese, zinc; sodium chloride is obtained from the salt pans of Massawa and Assab. In the depths of the Red Sea the presence of oil and natural gas has been ascertained, but the exploration was interrupted with the outbreak of the war. § The trade balance is heavily in deficit (2006). The main trading partners, both in terms of exports and imports, are the United States and Italy. § The country was crossed by 4010 km of roads in 1999, but most of the road infrastructures also suffered heavy repercussions with the outbreak of the war.
Inhabited in the first millennium a. C. from Semitic populations coming from southern Arabia, the region acquired political importance starting from the last centuries BC. C., first as a transit territory for an outlet to the sea of the Kingdom of Meroë; therefore, at least in part (coastal areas), as territories under the sovereignty of the Ptolemies of Egypt (304-30 BC); finally as an essential part of the Kingdom of Aksum. In all these centuries (ca. 5th century BC-6th century AD), Adulis, at the bottom of the Gulf of Zula (south of Massawa), was the great port of the Red Sea, a not insignificant center of trade. The Arab conquest of Egypt (639-642 AD) cut off the Kingdom of Aksum and therefore Eritrea from any contact with the rest of the world. In their great movement of expansion, the Arabs occupied at the beginning of the century. VIII the Dahlak islands by founding a small state, which also included Massawa. This passed in the century. IX under the Yemeni dynasty of the Zabīd, from which it became independent in the century. XIII. The interior, especially the plateau, fell under the control of the Ethiopian rulers. It seems that the Solomonid dynasty, ascended to the throne around 1270, exercised a certain control over the leaders of the coastal centers north and south of Massawa and that it also intermittently occupied the latter port. where the first Portuguese ships arrived in 1513. For some time, after 1520, the Arab leaders of Massawa paid tribute to the Portuguese viceroy of India.
According to remzfamily, Eritrea and Massawa itself were joined in 1534 by the Muslim leader Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhīm, called the Left-handed, who had conquered the whole of western Ethiopia, sowing terror and destruction. A Portuguese expedition under the command of Christovão da Gama, who rushed to the aid of Ethiopia, was defeated by Mancino, who was eventually killed (1541-43). The Turks occupied Massawa in 1557: they expelled the Jesuit missionaries from Ethiopia (1632), causing the region to be closed to Europeans. Only in 1838 did the first French and Italian Lazarist missionaries arrive. In 1866 Turkey ceded the administration of Massawa and its surroundings to the khedive of Egypt, Ismāʽīl, against payment of an annual tax. Ismāʽīl sent an expedition to Massawa with the task of taking over the entire region, but it was destroyed by the emperor of John IV (battles of Gundat and El Gura, 1875-76). Meanwhile, the opening of the Suez Canal had attracted the attention of the great powers on the Eritrean coasts.