State of Eritrea
CAPITAL : Asmara (Asmera)
FLAG : A red triangle divides the flag into two right triangles; the upper triangle is green, the lower one is blue. A gold wreath encircling a gold olive branch is centered on the hoist side of the red triangle.
ANTHEM : Eritrea National Anthem beginning "Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea."
MONETARY UNIT : After establishing independence from Ethiopia, Eritrea used Ethiopian currency until November 1997. At this time the nafka was issued to replace the Ethiopian birr at approximately the same rate. 1 nafka = $0.0738 (or $1 = 13.55 nafka) as of January 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is used.
HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 24 May; Martyrs' Day, 20 June; Anniversary of the Start of the Armed Struggle, 1 September. Movable holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-Adha, and 'Id Milad al-Nabi. Movable Orthodox Christian holidays include Fasika and Meskel.
TIME : 3 PM = noon GMT.
Highs of 60° C (140° F ) are not uncommon in the Danakil Depression in Eritrea's southernmost province, Denkalia. This is reportedly the hottest spot in the world. It is cooler and wetter in the central highlands. The western hills and lowlands are semiarid. Heavy rainfall occurs during June, July, and August, except in the coastal desert.
Although the giraffe and baboon are extinct in Eritrea, there are populations of lion, leopard, zebra, species of monkey, gazelle, antelope, and elephant. The coastal areas are home to many species of turtle, lobster, and shrimp. Plant life includes acacia, cactus, aloe vera, prickly pear, and olive trees.
The most significant environmental problems in Eritrea are deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, overgrazing, famine, and damage due to the infrastructure from warfare. In 2001, 6 out of 112 mammal species were threatened, as well as 3 out of 319 species of birds. About 4.3% of Eritrea's natural areas are protected.
No official language has been proclaimed. However, Arabic and Tigrinya are the working languages of the Eritrean government. Tigre is widely spoken in the western lowlands, on the northern coast, and in parts of the Sahel. Afar, Amharic, Kunama, and other minor ethnic group languages are also spoken.
Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia 24 May 1993 and joined the UN later that year. Eritrea is a member of the African Union (AU) and the UN. It also belongs to ECA and is a participant in the African Development Bank and G-77. The country is in the process of establishing diplomatic relations with other nations of the world.
Eritrea's forested area covers 1,585,000 ha (3,916,000 acres), or 13.5% of the total land area. Total roundwood production in 2000 was 2,246,000 tons, nearly all of it used for fuel. Since 1993, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front army has been involved in tree planting; the annual average rate of deforestation during 1990–2000 was 0.3%.
The University of Asmara, whose Italian and English sections were founded in 1958 and 1968, respectively, is the only facility of higher education on Eritrea offering courses in basic and applied sciences. It issues its Seismic Bulletin twice a year. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 30% of college and university enrollments.
The National Insurance Corporation of Eritrea (NICE) was established after the end of the war. It engages in all classes of insurance and was the only insurance provider operating in Eritrea as of late 2003. Insurance coverage provided by NICE include life, motor, workers' compensation, and personal accident protection.
Customs duty and import and export taxes are 33.6% of government revenue; direct domestic tax (business and personal income taxes) are 27.8% of government revenue; domestic sales tax and taxes on services are 26.1% of government revenue. The main indirect taxes are municipal taxes, assessed at different local rates on goods and services. In the capital in 2002, the municipal tax on goods was 4%, and on services, 3.2%.
Eritrea is planning an ambitious but much needed tax and customs reform, which would, among other aims, reduce the number of tariff rates from 12 to three, and lower the maximum tariff from 200% to 25%. Customs duties on capital goods and raw materials will increase from 2% to 5% and excise taxes on luxury goods will be abolished.
Asmara houses the library of the University of Asmara (60,000 volumes), the Asmara Public Library (28,000 volumes), and the library of the British Council (20,000 volumes).
The National Museum in Asmara—located in a former palace—and the Archeological Museum, operated by the Department of Culture in Asmara, are the country's two principal museums.
Isaias Afwerki (b.1946) has been president of Eritrea since its independence from Ethiopia 24 May 1993.
Eritrea has no territories or colonies.
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