Discover Ethiopia

Ethiopia officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants,] and the tenth largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2. Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With its capital at Addis Ababa, it is also the most populous landlocked nation in the world.

Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history, and the Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the 2nd century BC.  Ethiopia is also one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today, having yielded some of humanity's oldest traces. It may be the region from which Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and points beyond. Alongside Rome, China and Persia, the Ethiopian Aksum Empire was considered one of the four great world powers of the 3rd century. During the Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the only African country beside Liberia that retained its sovereignty as a recognized independent country, and was one of only four African members of the League of Nations. After a brief period of Italian occupation, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. When other African nations received their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia's flag, and Addis Ababa became the location of several international organizations focused on Africa.

Modern Ethiopia and its current borders are a result of significant territorial reduction in the north and expansion in the south toward its present borders, owing to several migrations and commercial integration as well as conquests, particularly by Emperor Menelik II and Ras Gobena. In 1974, the dynasty led by Haile Selassie was overthrown as civil wars intensified. Since then, Ethiopia has seen a variety of governmental systems. Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Today, Addis Ababa is still the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce (PACCI) and UNECA. The country has one of the most powerful militaries in Africa and Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the continental African Standby Force (ASF). Ethiopia is the only African country where an indigenous alphabet is still widely used.  Ethiopia also has its own time system and unique calendar, seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. It has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa.

The country is a land of natural contrasts, with waterfalls and volcanic hot springs. Ethiopia has some of Africa's highest mountains as well as some of the world's lowest points below sea level. The largest cave in Africa is located in Ethiopia at Sof Omar. Ethiopia has one of the largest number of rivers in the world while the country's northernmost area at Dallol, Afar is the hottest place year-round anywhere on Earth. Ethiopia is a multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic society of around 80 groups, with the two largest being the Oromo and the Amhara, both of which speak Afro-Asiatic languages. The country is also famous for its Olympic gold medalists in running, rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, and as the place where the coffee bean originated. Currently, Ethiopia is the top coffee and honey-producing country in Africa, and home to the largest livestock population in Africa. The Ethiopian Aksum region was the first major empire in the world to convert to Christianity and it was one of the first countries to officially adopt Christianity as a state religion in the 4th century. Ethiopia has a Christian majority and a third of the population is Muslim. Ethiopia is the site of the first Hijra in Islamic history and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. Until the 1980s, a substantial population of Ethiopian Jews resided in Ethiopia. The country is also the spiritual homeland of the Rastafari religious movement.
Ethiopia, which has Africa's second biggest hydropower potential, is the source of over 85% of the total Nile water flow and contains rich soils, but it nevertheless underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, exacerbated by adverse geopolitics and civil wars, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands.  Slowly, however, the country has begun to recover, and today Ethiopia has the biggest economy by GDP in East Africa and Central Africa, as the Ethiopian economy is also one of the fastest growing in the world. It is a regional powerhouse in the Horn and east Africa. Recently, human rights abuses have been reported in Ethiopia under Premier Meles Zenawi despite the country becoming a leading economic, diplomatic and political force in Africa.

The name Ethiopia occurs in many translations of the Old Testament, but the Hebrew texts have Kush, which refers foremost to Nubia / Sudan. In the (Greek) New Testament, however, the Greek term Aithiops, ‘an Ethiopian’, does occur,  referring to a servant of Candace or Kentakes, possibly an inhabitant of Meroe which was later conquered and destroyed by the Kingdom of Axum. The earliest attested use of the name Ityopya in the region itself is as a name for the Kingdom of Aksum in the 4th century, in stone inscriptions of King Ezana, who first Christianized the entire apparatus of the kingdom.
In English, and generally outside Ethiopia, the country was also once historically known as Abyssinia, derived from Habesh, an early Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name "Ḥabaśāt". The modern form Habesha is the native name for the country's inhabitants (while the country has been called "Ityopp'ya"). In a few languages, Ethiopia is still referred to by names cognate with "Abyssinia," e.g., modern Arabic Al-Ḥabashah, meaning land of the Habasha people.

Ethiopia was the fastest-growing non-oil-dependent African economy in the years 2007 and 2008. In spite of fast growth in recent years, GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world, and the economy faces a number of serious structural problems. There have been efforts for reform since 1991, but the scope of reform is modest. Agricultural productivity remains low, and frequent droughts still beset the country. The effectiveness of these policies is reflected in the 10% yearly economic growth from 2003–2008. Despite these economic improvements, urban and rural poverty remains an issue in the country.
Ethiopia is often ironically referred to as the "water tower" of Eastern Africa because of the many (14 major) rivers that pour off the high tableland. It also has the greatest water reserves in Africa, but few irrigation systems in place to use it. Just 1% is used for power production and 1.5% for irrigation.  Historically, Ethiopia's feudal and communist economic structure has always kept it one rainless season away from devastating droughts. Ethiopia has great potential to be a producer, as it is one of the most fertile countries in Africa. According to the New York Times, Ethiopia "could easily become the breadbasket for much of Europe if her agriculture were better organized." .

The Ethiopian constitution defines the right to own land as belonging only to "the state and the people", but citizens may only lease land (up to 99 years), and are unable to mortgage or sell. Renting of land for a maximum of twenty years is allowed and this is expected to ensure that land goes to the most productive user.  Agriculture accounts for almost 41% of the gross domestic product (GDP), 80% of exports, and 80% of the labor force.  Many other economic activities depend on agriculture, including marketing, processing, and export of agricultural products. Production is overwhelmingly by small-scale farmers and enterprises and a large part of commodity exports are provided by the small agricultural cash-crop sector. Principal crops include coffee, pulses (e.g., beans), oilseeds, cereals, potatoes, sugarcane, and vegetables. Recently, Ethiopia has had a fast-growing annual GDP and it was the fastest-growing non-oil-dependent African nation in 2007. Exports are almost entirely agricultural commodities, and coffee is the largest foreign exchange earner. Ethiopia is Africa's second biggest maize producer.  Ethiopia's livestock population is believed to be the largest in Africa, and as of 1987 accounted for about 15% of the GDP.   According to a recent UN report the GNP per capita of Ethiopia has reached $1541 (2009). The same report indicated that the life expectancy had improved substantially in recent years. The life expectancy of men is reported to be 56 years and for women 60 years.

Ethiopia produces more coffee than any other country in Africa. Coffee was domesticated in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is also the 10th largest producer of livestock in the world. Other main export commodities are khat, gold, leather products, and oilseeds. Recent development of the floriculture sector means Ethiopia is poised to become one of the top flower and plant exporters in the world.  With the private sector growing slowly, designer leather products like bags are becoming a big export business, with Taytu becoming the first luxury designer label in the country.  Additional small-scale export products include cereals, pulses, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes and hides. With the construction of various new dams and growing hydroelectric power projects around the country, Ethiopia also plans to export electric power to its neighbors.  However, coffee remains its most important export product and with new trademark deals around the world, including recent deals with Starbucks, the country plans to increase its revenue from coffee.  Most regard Ethiopia's large water resources and potential as its "white oil" and its coffee resources as "black gold".

The country also has large mineral resources and oil potential in some of the less inhabited regions. Political instability in those regions, however, has inhibited development. Ethiopian geologists were implicated in a major gold swindle in 2008. Four chemists and geologists from the Ethiopian Geological Survey were arrested in connection with a fake gold scandal, following complaints from buyers in South Africa. Gold bars from the National Bank of Ethiopia were found to be gilded metal by police, costing the state

Ethiopia's population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 75.1 million in 2006. The population was only about 9 million in the 19th century.  The 2007 Population and Housing Census results show that the population of Ethiopia grew at an average annual rate of 2.6% between 1994 and 2007, down from 2.8% during the period 1983–1994. Currently, the population growth rate is among the top ten countries in the world. The population is forecast to grow to over 210 million by 2060, which would be an increase from 2011 estimates by a factor of about 2.5.

The country's population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups. Most people in Ethiopia speak Afro-Asiatic languages, mainly of the Semitic or Cushitic branches. The latter include the Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayand Somali, who together make up three-quarters of the population.  According to the Ethiopian national census of 2007, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 34.49% of the nation's population. The Amhara represent 26.89% of the country's inhabitants, while the Somali and Tigray represent 6.20% and 6.07% of the population, respectively. Other prominent ethnic groups are as follows: Sidama 4.01%,Gurage 2.53%, Wolayta 2.31%, Afar 1.73%, Hadiya 1.74%, Gamo 1.50%, Kefficho 1.18% and others 11%.

In 2007, Ethiopia hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 201,700. The majority of this population came from Somalia (approximately 111,600 persons), Sudan (55,400) and Eritrea (23,900). The Ethiopian government required nearly all refugees to live in refugee camps.

Migration to urban areas is usually motivated by the hope of better lives. In peasant associations daily life is a struggle to survive. About 16% of the population in Ethiopia are living on less than 1 dollar per day (2008). Only 65% of rural households in Ethiopia consume the World Health Organization's minimum standard of food per day (2,200 kilocalories), with 42% of children under 5 years old being underweight.  Most poor families (75%) share their sleeping quarters with livestock, and 40% of children sleep on the floor, where nighttime temperatures average 5 degrees Celsius in the cold season.  The average family size is six or seven, living in a 30-square-meter mud and thatch hut, with less than two hectares of land to cultivate. These living conditions are deplorable, but are the daily lives of peasant associations.

The peasant associations face a cycle of poverty. Since the landholdings are so small, farmers cannot allow the land to lie fallow, which reduces soil fertility. This land degradation reduces the production of fodder for livestock, which causes low milk yields.  Since the community burns livestock manure as fuel, rather than plowing the nutrients back into the land, the crop production is reduced.  The low productivity of agriculture leads to inadequate incomes for farmers, hunger, malnutrition and disease. These unhealthy farmers have a hard time working the land and the productivity drops further.  Although conditions are drastically better in cities, all of Ethiopia suffers from poverty, and poor sanitation. In the capital city of Addis Ababa, 55% of the population lives in slums. Although there are some wealthy neighborhoods with mansions, most people make their houses using whatever materials are available, with walls made of mud or wood. Only 12% of homes have cement tiles or floors.  Sanitation is the most pressing need in the city, with most of the population lacking access to waste treatment facilities. This contributes to the spread of illness through unhealthy water.  Despite the living conditions in the cities, the people of Addis Ababa are much better off than people living in the peasant associations owing to their educational opportunities. Unlike rural children, 69% of urban children are enrolled in primary school, and 35% of those eligible for secondary school attend.  Addis Ababa has its own university as well as many other secondary schools. The literacy rate is 82%.

Health is also much greater in the cities. Birth rates, infant mortality rates, and death rates are lower in the city than in rural areas owing to better access to education and hospitals.  Life expectancy is higher at 53, compared to 48 in rural areas.  Despite sanitation being a problem, use of improved water sources is also greater; 81% in cities compared to 11% in rural areas. This encourages more people to migrate to the cities in hopes of better living conditions.  Many NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are working to solve this problem; however, most are far apart, uncoordinated, and working in isolation.[120] The Sub-Saharan Africa NGO Consortium is attempting to coordinate efforts among NGOs in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ghana, and Nigeria.

According to the head of the World Bank's Global HIV/AIDS Program, Ethiopia has only 1 medical doctor per 100,000 people.  However, the World Health Organization's 2006 World Health Report gives a figure of 1936 physicians (for 2003), which comes to about 2.6 per 100,000. Globalization is said to affect the country, with many educated professionals leaving Ethiopia for a better economic opportunity in the West.

Ethiopia's main health problems are said to be communicable diseases caused by poor sanitation and malnutrition. These problems are exacerbated by the shortage of trained manpower and health facilities.  There are 119 hospitals (12 in Addis Ababa alone) and 412 health centers in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a relatively low average life expectancy of 45 years.  Infant mortality rates are relatively very high, as over 8% of infants die during or shortly after childbirth, (although this is a dramatic decrease from 16% in 1965) while birth-related complications such as obstetric fistula affect many of the nation's women. HIV is also prevalent in the country.

The other major health problem in Ethiopia is spread of AIDS. AIDS has mainly affected poor communities and women, due to lack of health education, empowerment, awareness and lack of social well-being. The government of Ethiopia and many private organizations like World health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations, are launching campaigns and are working aggressively to improve Ethiopia’s health conditions and promote health awareness on AIDS and other communicable diseases (Dugassa, 2005). Many believe that sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea result from touching a stone after a female dog urinates on it and there is a general belief that these diseases are caused by bad spirits and supernatural causes. Others believe that eating the reproductive organs of a black goat will help expel the diseases from those same organ in their body (Kater, 2000). Ethiopia has high infant and maternal mortality rate. Only a minority of Ethiopians are born in hospitals; most of them are born in rural households. Those who are expected to give birth at home have elderly women serve as midwives assist with the delivery (Kater, 2000) The increase in infant and maternal mortality rate is believed to be due to lack of women’s involvement in household decision- making, immunization and social capital (Fantahun, Berhane, Wall, Byass, & Hogberg, 2007). On the other hand, the “WHO estimates that a majority of maternal fatalities and disabilities could be prevented if deliveries were to take place at well-equipped health centers, with adequately trained staff”

The low availability of health care professionals with modern medical training, together with lack of funds for medical services, leads to the preponderancy of less reliable traditional healers that use home-based therapies to heal common ailments. One medical practice that is commonly practiced irrespective of religion or economic status is female genital cutting (FGC) or female circumcision, a procedure by which some of a woman's external genital tissue, such as the clitoral hood, the clitoris or labia, are removed. According to a study performed by the Population Reference Bureau, Ethiopia has a prevalence rate of 81% among women ages 35 to 39 and 62% among women ages 15–19. Ethiopia’s 2005 Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) noted that the national prevalence rate is 74% among women ages 15–49. The practice is almost universal in the regions of Dire Dawa, Somali and Afar; in the Oromo and Harari regions, more than 80% of girls and women undergo the procedure. FGC is least prevalent in the regions of Tigray and Gambela, where 29% and 27% of girls and women, respectively, are affected.  In 2004, the Ethiopian Government enacted a law against FGC. Female circumcision is a pre-marital custom mainly endemic to Northeast Africa and parts of the Near East that has its ultimate origins in Ancient Egypt.  Encouraged by women in the community, it is primarily intended to deter promiscuity and to offer protection from assault. About 76% of Ethiopia's male population is also reportedly circumcised.

The Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia is signatory to various international conventions and treaties that protect the rights of women and children. Its constitution provides for the fundamental rights and freedoms for women. There is an attempt being made to raise the social and economic status of women through eliminating all legal and customary practices, which hinder women’s equal participation in society and undermine their social status.

Education in Ethiopia had been dominated by the Orthodox Church for many centuries until secular education was adopted in the early 1900s.The current system follows very similar school expansion schemes to the rural areas as the previous 1980s system with an addition of deeper regionalization giving rural education in their own languages starting at the elementary level and with more budget allocated to the education sector. The sequence of general education in Ethiopia is six years of primary school, four years of lower secondary school and two years of higher secondary school. In 2004 school enrollment was below that of many other African countries. Half the population of Ethiopia is illiterate.