Ethiopia is an independent republic which lies in the north-east corner of Africa and forms part of the North East African Region. The capital city is Addis Ababa, headquarters of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Other major towns are Dire Dawa and Harar.

Since the secession of Eritrea in 1993, Ethiopia has been a landlocked state. The official language is Amharic but English, Arabic and Italian are used in commerce. The local currency is the Ethiopian birr. (US$ / Birr – current exchange rate).

The Ethiopia oil industry is a key sector in the economy of the country. Its full upstream potential has yet to be assessed. It has substantial energy resources with development potential. Natural gas and associated liquid reserves have been proven in the Calub area in commercially viable quantities.

The downstream oil industry accounts for a small amount of the country’s imports. The mining industry in Ethiopia is also a significant sector with development potential. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority (EELPA).

Despite their increases in food production in Ethiopia, an estimated 2 million Ethiopians still required food aid in 1999.

The economy has grown stronger as the transition from a command to a market-based economy takes place. The former system of price controls has almost been discarded, the tax rates have decreased, and several private sector restrictions have been removed. This progress is, however, at risk if conflict with Eritrea prevails.

Ethiopia belongs to the COMESA agreement. Member countries enjoy preferential trade terms.

In terms of the Lome convention, exports from Ethiopia to the European union market are not subject to quota restrictions and are entitled to duty reductions or exemptions. All industrial products and a large range of agricultural products may enter Ethiopia duty free.

A range of Ethiopian manufactured exports experience preferential treatment in America, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Japan and the European Union under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP). Also, quantitative restrictions are not applied to any of the Ethiopian exports that are eligible for GSP treatment.

The international time zone for Ethiopia is GMT +3 and the international dialling code is +251. There are international airports at Addis Ababa and Dire Diwa and the principal airlines which service these airports are Ethiopian Airlines and several international air carriers. As at January 1996 nationals of most countries require visas in order to visit Ethiopia.

Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, meningitis, typhoid fever, yellow fever (regional) and schistosomiasis may be contracted while travelling in Ethiopia. The risk of contraction is based on a number of factors including location, individual’s state of health, current immunisation status, and the local disease situation. All visitors require vaccination certificates against yellow fever.

Shaun Bakamoso

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