The Italians had planned to make Dekemhare the industrial capital of Eritrea. Bypassing Asmera, a road ran directly from the port of Massawa to the uplands, and Dekemhare became an important industrial center where offices, warehouses and factories were concentrated. During the war of independence (1961 - 1991), however, the town suffered much damage, and today just two of the old factories still operate: a pasta factory and the biscuit factory Red Sea Geneva Mills. Other remains of colonial days include the fruit, vegetables and grain.

Dekemhare was also famous for its wine industry, and grapes feature in the decorations adoring many balconies.