Signs of hope in Eritrea

Sir, – The recent peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, at war since 1998, is one of the best news stories to emerge from Africa in years. It stabilises a critical region and opens up significant avenues for economic development across the Horn of Africa.

Visiting the Eritrean capital Asmara last week, the sense of history unfolding was palpable. After more than 20 years of hostility, peace had broken out, and families and friends were reunited for the first time in a generation.

To put this in some context, France was on the road to winning its first World Cup title in 1998 when hostilities first broke out between these two African neighbours, and the curtain came down on all forms of engagement, battlefield apart.

Because of Ireland’s long-standing relationships with Ethiopia, and our links to Eritrea, we have a unique opportunity to support this fledgling peace process, particularly through knowledge-transfer in agriculture, a key part of both economies.


Self Help Africa is one of the few international NGOs working in the country.

In conjunction with Vita, another Irish development agency, and Teagasc, we have been working in partnership with the ministry of agriculture on a project for the past number of years.

This points the way forward as Ireland develops a new White Paper on international aid – how Irish talent and Irish aid can reduce poverty across the developing world, through a smart combination of knowledge transfer and investment.

Right now, this region needs both aid and trade. In the longer term, through a blend of public and private investment, this will benefit not only the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but also the Irish public.

A pariah state that was described not long ago as “the North Korea of Africa”, Eritrea has endured enormous economic hardship as a result of economic sanctions and its own isolationist policies.

The recent dramatic and unexpected thaw in relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea paves the way for a new era of growth and development for a people who are amongst the poorest on Earth. Ireland can play an important role in this historic journey. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Self Help Africa,

Kingsbridge House,

Dublin 8.