Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD)

Ethiopian people

People of Ethiopia

Ethiopians are ethnically diverse, with the most significant differences based on linguistic classification.

Ethnic groups and languages

Ethiopians are ethnically diverse, with the most significant differences based on linguistic classification. Ethiopia is a linguistic mosaic of about 100 languages divided into four groups. The vast majority of languages are Semitic, Cushitic, or Omotic, and are all members of the Afro-Asian language family. A small number of languages are Nilotic, which is part of the Nilo-Saharan language family.

Geez, Tigrinya, Amharic, Gurage, and Hareri are among the Semitic languages spoken primarily in the country’s northern and central regions. Geez, the Aksumite empire’s ancient language, is now only used for religious writings and worship in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Tigrinya is indigenous to the country’s northeastern region. Amharic is a major language spoken in the country’s central and northwestern regions. Gurage and Hareri are spoken by a small number of people in the south and east.

Ethiopian Ethnic groups

Oromo, Somali, and Afar are the most well-known Cushitic languages. Oromo is indigenous to the country’s western, southwestern, southern, and eastern regions. Somali is most common in the Ogaden and Hawd, while Afar is most common in the Denakil Plain.

The Omotic languages, the most prominent of which is Walaita, are not widely spoken, being found primarily in the densely populated areas of the extreme southwest. The Nilotic language family is indigenous to the Western Lowlands, with Kunama speakers predominating.

All Ethiopian languages have official state recognition under the constitution. However, Amharic is the federal government’s “working language,” and it is one of the two most widely spoken languages in the country, along with Oromo. Ethnolinguistic differences were used to restructure Ethiopia’s administrative divisions in the 1990s.

Religion of Ethiopia

Islam was introduced in the seventh century and is now followed by approximately one-third of Ethiopians. It is most prevalent in the country’s outskirts, particularly the Eastern Lowlands, but there are local concentrations throughout the country. Historically, Islam’s status has been far from equal to that of Christianity. However, Haile Selassie I (reigned 1930-74) gave Muslim leaders audiences and made overtures in response to their concerns, and under the Derg regime (1974-91) even more was done to give the two faiths at least symbolic parity. Nonetheless, both highland Ethiopians and foreigners continue to regard Ethiopia as “an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam.” Some highlanders are concerned that fundamentalist Muslim movements in the region and neighboring countries will galvanize support for a greater role for Islam in Ethiopia.

Religion of Ethiopia

Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia in the fourth century, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (known in Ethiopia as Tewahdo) is one of the world’s oldest organized Christian bodies. The church has long played a dominant role in Ethiopian culture and politics, serving as the official religion of the ruling elite until the monarchy’s demise in 1974. It has also served as a repository for Ethiopia’s literary and visual arts traditions. The heart of Christianity is in northern Ethiopia’s highlands, but its influence is felt throughout the country. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is followed by more than two-fifths of Ethiopians. Another one-fifth practice other Christian faiths, the vast majority of which are protestant.

An animist subset of Ethiopians worships a variety of African deities. The majority of these traditionalists are Nilotic language speakers, such as the Kunama, and live in the Western Lowlands. In the vicinity of the ancient city of Gonder, Judaism has long been practiced. The majority of Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, have moved to Israel (see Researcher’s Note: Beta Israel migration to Israel, 1980-92).

Settlement patterns

Most Ethiopians live in scattered rural communities, with only about one-fifth of the population living in cities. Homesteads are generally scattered near farm plots to reduce travel distance. Buildings come in circular and rectangular shapes and are made of materials that can be found in the environment. Roofs are mostly thatched, but corrugated steel tops are becoming more popular in rural areas.

Ethiopia’s modern urban centers include the national capital, Addis Abeba, as well as regional centers such as Dire Dawa (in the east), Jima (in the south), Nekemte (in the west), Dese (north-central), Gonder (northwest), and Mekele (north). Menilek II established Addis Abeba in 1886, putting an end to the practice of “roving capitals” practiced by previous monarchs. After WWII, “Addis” received the lion’s share of investments in industry, social services, and infrastructure, making it the most appealing location for young people seeking opportunity.

Ethiopia’s modern urban centers include the national capital, Addis Abeba, as well as regional centers such as Dire Dawa (in the east), Jima (in the south), Nekemte (in the west), Dese (north-central), Gonder (northwest), and Mekele (north). Menilek II established Addis Abeba in 1886, putting an end to the practice of “roving capitals” practiced by previous monarchs. After WWII, “Addis” received the lion’s share of investments in industry, social services, and infrastructure, making it the most appealing location for young people seeking opportunity.

Ethiopian Settlement patterns

Despite the emphasis on decentralizing development, Addis Abeba remains a popular destination for many migrants drawn by the opportunities it is perceived to offer or by its relative peace and security.

 

Ethiopian Demographic trends

Ethiopia accepts refugees from a number of neighboring countries. The vast majority of refugees are from Somalia, but Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan also have significant numbers. The majority have fled their countries due to conflict or famine. In contrast, there is some movement of Ethiopian refugees, the majority of whom claim political persecution and are en route to Kenya or the United States. Furthermore, since the last quarter of the twentieth century, many young educated Ethiopians have chosen to relocate to the United States or European countries in search of better opportunities.

Demographic trends

Ethiopia’s population growth rate is significantly higher than the global average, and it is among the highest in Africa. The country’s birth and death rates are also significantly higher than the global average. Life expectancy is around 50 years old, which is about average for the African continent but lower than the global average. Although the population is slightly older than it was in the final decades of the twentieth century, Ethiopia still has a relatively young population, with more than two-fifths under the age of 15.

Internal migration has occurred as a result of a variety of factors, including conflict and various government land-resettlement programs. During the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea, for example, more than 300,000 Ethiopians were internally displaced in the Eritrean-Ethiopian border region, and after drought and famine in the early 2000s, some 300,000 people were relocated from drought-prone areas to western parts of the country. Conflict between the federal government and Tigray regional forces began in 2020, displacing over two million Tigrayans.

Economy of Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s economy enjoyed a modicum of free enterprise under Haile Selassie I (reigned 1930-74). The production and export of cash crops such as coffee were advanced, as were import-substituting manufacturing industries such as textiles and footwear. Tourism, banking, insurance, and transportation began to contribute more to the national economy, particularly after World War II.

Despite economic reform progress since the 1990s, Ethiopia remains one of Africa’s and the world’s poorest countries. In 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative, and in 2005, Ethiopia was one of several countries that received full debt relief from the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank.

Addis ababa at night

From 1974 to 1991, the communist Derg regime nationalized all means of production, including land, housing, farms, and industry. With their land rights uncertain, the smallholding subsistence farmers who form the backbone of Ethiopian agriculture became hesitant to produce surplus foods for market. Although land has remained nationalized, rural Ethiopian conditions have improved slightly as the government has prioritized rural development. Even so, the issue of land ownership has remained contentious, impeding the development of commercial agriculture.

Economy of Ethiopia

Agriculture accounts for nearly half of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Agriculture is classified into three types. The first and most important is the subsistence smallholder sector, which produces the majority of staple grains such as teff, wheat, barley, and oats (on cooler plateaus) and sorghum, corn (maize), and millet (in warmer areas), as well as pulses such as chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils. Farm plots are typically 3 to 6 acres in size (1.2 to 2.5 hectares). Cash cropping is the second type of agriculture. Coffee, oilseeds, beeswax, sugarcane, and khat (qat; Catha edulis), a mild narcotic, are among the products. The single most important export is coffee, which is native to Ethiopia.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Ethiopia’s agricultural land is its most promising resource. Despite the fact that soil erosion, overgrazing, and deforestation have severely harmed the plateaus, nearly half of the potentially cultivable land remains available for use. The majority of the reserve land is in areas of the country with favorable climatic conditions for intensive agriculture. Furthermore, Ethiopia is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of livestock, including cattle. With better grazing land management and breeding, livestock production has the potential to meet the needs of both domestic and export markets.

Fishing is primarily done artisanally on the country’s rivers and inland lakes. The majority of the fish sold locally is produced by small businesses whose scale of operation and technology are insufficient for export production. Despite the fact that the fishing industry is small, output more than doubled during the 1990s. The forestry sector is not a significant economic activity in the country.

Resources and power

Minerals play a minor role in Ethiopia’s economy. Only gold and tantalum are valuable. Gold is mined in the south at Kibre Mengist, platinum in the west at Yubdo, and tantalum in the south-central part of the country. Gemstones, niobium, and soda ash deposits are also mined, and there is potential for the extraction of other mineral resources such as petroleum and natural gas. Rock salt from the Denakil Plain and quarried building materials such as marble are also important. This sector contributes very little to the country’s economy in comparison to its potential (less than 1 percent of GDP).

The majority of energy for domestic use in rural areas is derived primarily from firewood and charcoal, putting a strain on the country’s remaining wood resources. Ethiopia’s long reliance on these sources has contributed to the depletion of its forests and soil erosion. The government’s ongoing hydroelectric power generation expansion aims to improve access to electricity in rural areas while also producing electricity for export to other countries.

Ethiopia’s petroleum needs are met primarily through imports from Sudan and Djibouti.

Ethiopia Electric Power (EEP) is responsible for the upkeep of more than 14 hydropower and three wind power plants across the country. EEP will instead concentrate on the management of existing power plants, substations, and transmission lines, with all new power generation projects being developed through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) (IPPs).

Ethiopia’s petroleum needs are met primarily through imports from Sudan and Djibouti.

Gerd-dam-in-full

Ethiopia has an abundance of renewable energy resources and the capacity to generate over 60,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal sources. Demand for electricity has been steadily increasing as a result of Ethiopia’s rapid GDP growth over the previous decade. Despite Ethiopia’s energy potential, the country is experiencing energy shortages and load shedding as it struggles to serve a population of over 110 million people while meeting rising electricity demand, which is expected to increase by 30% per year. The country currently has approximately 4,500 MW of installed generation capacity, with some projects still under construction. In the next ten years, the power generation capacity will be increased exponentially to 17,000 MW.

Some hydroelectric projects, such as the massive Gilgel Gibe III dam and power station along the Omo River, which was inaugurated in 2016, and the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and power stations along the Blue Nile River, which began construction in 2011. Filling of the GERD reservoir, which was scheduled to take place over several years during the rainy season, began in July 2020, and power generation began in February 2022, when the first of 13 turbines was turned on.

Energy Resource Potential of Ethiopia  

Resource  

Unit  

Exploitable Reserve  

Exploited Percent  

Hydropower  

MW  

45,000  

<5%  

Solar/day  

kWh/m2  

4 – 6  

<1%  

Wind: Power  

Speed  

GW  

m/s  

100  

>7  

<1%  

Geothermal  

MW  

<10,000  

<1%  

Wood  

Million tons  

1120  

50%  

Agricultural waste  

Million tons  

15-20  

30%  

Natural Gas  

Billion m3  

113  

0%  

Coal  

Million tons  

300  

0%  

Oil shale  

Million tons  

253  

0%  

                         Source: Ethiopian Electrical Power   

Travel to Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a rugged, landlocked country in the Horn of Africa divided by the Great Rift Valley. It's a place of ancient culture, with archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years.

History of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is bounded to the north by Eritrea, to the northeast by Djibouti, to the east by Somalia, to the south by Kenya, and to the west by South Sudan and Sudan.

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