Ethiopia is a land-locked country on the Horn of Africa… surrounded by the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan.
With a population of 90 million, it is the most populous landlocked nation in the world and the second-most populated on the continent.
Sadly, Ethiopia ranked 174 out of 188 countries on the the United Nations Human Development Index in 2015… on a par with South Sudan and Afghanistan.
That said, Ethiopian has three claims to fame:
- The capital city of Addis Ababa, home to three million, is the seat of the African Union.
- Ethiopia is home to 3.2 million year old Lucy, the world-famous fossil representative of our human ancestors.
- Unlike so many other countries in Africa, Ethiopia has never been colonized by a European power.
Demographics (data from various sources).
Ethiopia’s diverse population is composed of over eighty recognized ethnic groups. The top three are…
- Oromo 34.5%
- Amhara 26.9%
- Somali 6.2%
Ninety (90) languages are recognized. As you might expect, language usage closely tracks the ethnic distribution of the population. The top three are:.
- Oromifa (official regional) 33.8%
- Amharic (official) 29.3%
- Somali 6.2%
Literacy (defined as “age 15 and older and able to read and write”) is 39% with a significant gender bias: male: 49.1%, female: 29.4%.
English is the most widely spoken foreign language. And, while the dominant regional language is used in primary schools, English is used in secondary schools and universities.
Ethiopia has rich historical ties to the big three Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- Ethiopian Orthodox 43.5%
- Muslim 33.9%
- Protestant 18.6%
- Traditional 2.6%
- Catholic 0.7%
- Other 0.7%
- Official currency: Ethiopian Birr ($1 ~ 22 Birr)
- Per Capita GDP = $550 (compare to USA = $53,000)
- Real GDP growth Rate ~ 7.5 %
- Agriculture =46% of GDP and accounts for 80% of employment.
- Unemployment = 17.5%
- Ninety (90) percent of electricity is supplied by hydropower, but demand currently outstrips limited, rain-dependent supply.
- Main export: Coffee
Recent Thumbnail History
- 1955. First constitution and elected parliament 1955 under monarchy of Emperor Haile Selassie.
- 1974. Selassie overthrown by Soviet-backed Derg, became a socialist state.
- 1991. Communist regime overthrown.
- 1994. Current constitution ratified.
- 1995. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia officially born.
- Learn more about the current government below.
Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic, with three branches:
- Executive, headed by a prime minister
- Legislative, elected multi-party parliament
- Judiciary, with federal and state-level courts
There are nine ethnically-based administrative regions (equivalent to states) and two city-states: Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. Regions are further divided into more localized governing zones.
The Ethiopian Flag
— Green signifies the land.
— Yellow represents peace and hope.
— Red symbolizes strength.
— The star points toward a bright future.
— The five yellow rays symbolize equality of all Ethiopians regardless of race, sex, or creed.
As is typical of climates near the equator, temperatures remain fairly constant year-round, but are a strong function of elevation, which ranges from 400 feet below sea level to 15,000 feet above. Addis Ababa, at 7500 feet elevation, remains relatively cool year-round, with average high temperatures that rarely exceed 68 F (20 C). A place of unique interest is the Denakil Depression: Below sea level and shielded from rains by mountains the West, it is extremely hot and dry year-round.
Ethiopia has well-defined rainy and dry seasons. During the dry season (nominally November through February), dust seems to blow always and everywhere, making the simple act of breathing, in both the city and the countryside, a real health hazard. During the rainy season, (nominally June through September), mud makes travel difficult to impossible in certain areas.
Health (per WHO 2006 World Health Report)
Vaccine-preventable diseases (measles, diphteria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis) and malnutrition are responsible for the majority of childhood deaths in Ethiopia. Here are some other lamentable statistics:
- Infant Mortality = 8%
- Life Expectancy: 58 years
- 1 doctor per 40,000
- 1 dentist per 800,000
- Malaria Mortality = 51 per 100,000
- HIV prevalence =2.3%
Major diaspora communities (first wave and descendants included), a relatively well-educated population of refugees motivated to escape political turmoil, violence, and lack of economic prospects:
- United States 460k (350k Washington, DC; 100k in Los Angeles; 10k New York).
- Israel 130k
- Saudi Arabia 90k
- Italy 30k
- Lebanon 30k
- United Kingdom 20k
- Australia 5k