Every summer, Eritrea bears fruit from its common sense policy on education. Education in Eritrea is basically free and, as a young developing country, the dividends can be quite commendable. As such, Eritrea plays host to numerous graduation ceremonies each summer; this year, each one of the nine higher education institutes found in Eritrea held a graduation ceremony for students in various fields. This not only improves the quality of Eritrea’s human resources but also helps increase the small, yet significant, number of Eritrean scholars in Eritrean Studies.
Eritrea has long relied on the resource of its people. With the passing of each day, the people and Government of Eritrea strive to establish a future full of young elite intellectuals that will assist national development.
With the dawn of independence in 1991, education became one of the country’s major areas of focus and investment. With large investment, collaboration, and contributions of different parties, more than 14,000 Eritrean students have been offered the opportunity to pursue their studies in one of the country’s nine institutes of higher education.
Currently, Eritrea is still in a state of euphoria after having celebrated its 25th Silver Jubilee Independence, while also having to defend itself from external aggression from Ethiopia and hoax allegations by the COI. Nevertheless, with continued aggression and provocations at every corner, Eritrea is still firmly concentrating on nation building, knowing that the light will inevitably shine on the truth one way or the other.
Bearing this in mind, over the last several years Eritrea has sought to correct its tarnished image. Global change is happening and creative solutions to abate the pressure on Eritrea require a new paradigm for development and a roadmap for stewardship of the country. Human activities are partly responsible for changing the country’s image and giving rise to other, globally- and locally-critical changes. This has major consequences for the development agenda at both local and regional levels. Solutions will require the application of Eritrea’s best minds, as well as debate and interactions among a broader group than the Eritrean community alone. International scholars are also critically-important players.
Eritrea’s nation-building needs to develop on a world-wide basis. Nation-building should not only be confined to the borders of the country, but also has to include the numerous diaspora Eritreans as well as international partners, be it organizations or individual scholars.
To this end, the International Conference on Eritrean Studies is vital. It had adequate representation, not only from local Eritreans, but also many from the Diaspora, as well as from international scholars. The conference is also important for several other reasons:
It can revive and ensure the continuity of scholarly discussions on Eritrea and Eritrean Studies locally and globally; it can raise the profile of the country and attract positive international attention; it will further the international exchange of ideas and information among scholars from various nations and various disciplines; it will help create new networks with international scholars and institutions, whilst strengthening existing ones; the conference provides a platform for discussion of relevant national and regional issues, which is a pre-requisite for stronger and better integrated regional collaboration; and the conference will help in promoting and accurately reflecting Eritrea and its people.
The International Conference on Eritrean Studies showcases a range of views on foreign policy, Africa, Asmara’s cultural heritage, regional security, gender equality, Eritrea-US and Eritrea-Ethiopia relations, Eritrean languages, food security, anthropological research, archeological fieldwork, environmental policy, business management and sustainable development, amongst others. Overall, the numerous panels call for radical new approaches to information and offer how new, exciting ways to address problems.
An important theme of the conference is, “the way forward.” Essentially outlining how to promote Eritrea, improve the different societal or government sectors, ensure food security, reduce poverty, achieve economic progress, improve environmental protection, and reduce unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Additionally, the conference underscores how education is inextricably linked to a broad range of human development concerns, including poverty alleviation, women’s equality and empowerment, and environmental protection. It is important to note that the conference will challenge the existent biased narrative about Eritrea and provide a much more holistic, contextual understanding of the country.
Importantly, conferences are important learning and developmental opportunities for youth, which constitute a large proportion of Eritrea’s population. It is encouraging that youth were active participants at the conference through taking part in organization of the conference, supporting logistics, attending seminars and presentations, and presenting research of their own. For youth, attending such a conference is not only be a rewarding learning experience but also a great chance to socialize and network, as well as develop or refine research ideas of their own.
Finally, hosting a major international conference can be seen as a rewarding experience for Eritrea and a foundational benchmark for future events. Also, keeping the event within the manageability of the city is crucial. You do not have to have the greatest event ever, just a well hosted event that almost everyone can enjoy. Eritrea not only successfully hosted a great international conference, but also an enjoyable one, if I might add.