Ethiopia is the largest land-locked country situated in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country is located in northeast Africa between 3˚ and 18˚ North latitude and 33˚ and 48˚ East longitude with 1.1 million square kilometres of land area bordering Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The topographic features range from a high plateau with Central Mountains divided by the Great Rift Valley. The highest peak at Ras Dashen is 4,533 meters above sea level, down to the Dankil Depression in Afar at 110 meters below sea level. The climatic conditions vary between temperatures of 47 ˚C in the Afar depression to 10 ˚C in the highlands.
Ethiopia is a federal republic with nine regional states and two administration cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. The regional states are divided into 83 zones and 801 Woredas (districts) (census 2007). There are over 80 ethnic groups. Out of these, Oromo and Amhara account for 34.5 per cent and 26.9 per cent respectively. In terms of religion, 43.5 per cent of the total population is Orthodox Christian and 33.9 per cent is Muslim.The official language is Amharic and the monetary unit is Ethiopian Birr. The exchange rate is US$ 1 = ETB 17.96 as of October 2012. Decentralization to the regional, woreda,and kebele levels is a center-piece of Ethiopia’s strategy for ending poverty.
Ethiopia’s Constitution was ratified in December 1994. The country is governed by a bicameral parliament, which is currently led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) following general multiparty elections in 2005. After the death of Meles Zenawi on 20 August 2012, Hailemariam Desalegn became the Prime Minister. The Head of State is President Girma WoldeGiorgis.
Ethiopia has experienced strong and broad-based economic growth since 2004. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 10.6% per year, compared to the regional average of 5.2% per year over this period.
- Ethiopia ranks 174th on the UNDP Human Development Index of 187 countries (2011).
- Ethiopia has achieved remarkable economic and social progress, particularly over the past decade. Recent annual economic growth has averaged 11%, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Ethiopia is also one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that is on track to meet most of the MDG targets.
- Endowed with fertile soil and large bodies of water, Ethiopia is known as the “water tower” of Africa. Yet the country is exploiting a small portion of its hydropower potential.
- Agriculture, mostly rain-fed smallholder farming, is a major economic activity. It accounts for 46% of GDP and 85% of total employment. Coffee has been a major export crop. The agricultural sector suffers from poor cultivation practices and frequent drought, but recent joint efforts by the Government of Ethiopia and donors have strengthened Ethiopia's agricultural resilience, contributing to a reduction in the number of Ethiopians threatened with starvation. However, agriculture has in recent years been overtaken by the services sector, in terms of both rate of growth and share of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP).
- Ethiopia’s budget in the 2011/12 financial year was US$ 7 billion. US$ 3.6 billion of the total budget will be sourced from local resources while the balance will be mobilized from external sources in the form of loans and grants.
- Ethiopia’s continued vulnerability to climatic and other external shocks, including those related to global prices and inflation, has compromised its efforts to reduce poverty. The country’s overarching development goal remains the eradication of poverty through “broad-based, accelerated and sustained economic growth” that is also inclusive and equitable. Souring inflation rates, which was 33.22 per cent in 2011 (World Bank), remains a major concern that could curtail recent development gains.
- The current five-year development plan, the Growth and Transformational Plan (GTP), aims to address development gaps and accelerate socio-economic growth so the country can attain climate-resilient, carbon-neutral, middle-income status by 2025.
There is no private land-ownership in Ethiopia. The state owns all land and provides long term lease agreements to the tenants. With a growing population and the majority of Ethiopians engaged in subsistence farming, subsequent generations of farmers are inheriting increasingly small plots. Average land holdings fell from 0.5 hectares per person in 1960s to 0.11 hectares in 1999.
Regional/ International Relations
In December 2006, Ethiopian forces launched strikes against the Union of Islamic Courts across Somalia, assisting the United Nations-supported Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of the Somali Republic. Ethiopia has withdrawn its forces and been replaced by a UN/AU peacekeeping force.
Demarcation of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border, the main cause of war between the two countries in 1998–2000, remains unresolved. The situation in the Temporary Security Zone established following the ceasefire between the two states remains volatile and tense. Following the restrictions imposed by Eritrea on the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) the Security Council terminated the mandate of UNMEE as of July 2008. Nevertheless there are fears of renewed conflict after attacks early 2012.
Natural disasters and Humanitarian Emergencies
The La Nina-induced drought, and the related Somali refugee crisis on Ethiopia’s south-eastern border in 2011 affected an estimated 4.6 million persons in Ethiopia.
The 2013 Humanitarian Requirement Document (HRD) estimates that 2.4 million people require relief food assistance. The number of children with severe acute malnutrition requiring treatment stands at 159,090, while the number of people at risk of various diseases is 4.2 million.
Crises in neighbouring countries - and the Government’s open-door approach - have turned Ethiopia into a major refugee-hosting country. As of February 2013, Ethiopia was home to nearly 388,805 refugees - mainly Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese. Currently, the UN and the Government are opening up a sixth refugee camps in the Dollo Ado area to host 190.000 Somalia refugees fleeing from the impact of famine and conflict in their own country.
The focus of the Growth and Transformation Plan is on public investment on infrastructure, notably dams, roads, rail and communications. The plan also prioritises agriculture as a means to fuel economic growth and thus reduce poverty coupled with investment in the social sector to meet the MDGs. The country recently announced that it will construct a multibillion-dollar Nile River dam that could supply more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia and its neighbours, including newcomer South Sudan. The project - the Grand Millennium Dam - has sparked worries about environmental and human costs. When completed in 2015, the Grand Millennium Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa.
Ethiopia is one of the few African countries that still practices monopoly on its telecommunication. Only 13 per cent of the population has mobile telephones (Ethio Telecom 2011) and 0.75 per cent internet usage (ITU 2010) which is very low, even by African standards. Several broadband initiatives have been launched since 2004. Further massive investments worth US$ 4 billion are planned by the Government for fixed line, mobile and internet services over the next five years.