Ethiopia Country Facts

By | June 8, 2024
ኢትዮጵያ ʾĪtyōṗṗyā
Capital city Addis Ababa
Surface 1,104,300 km²
Population 117,876,000
Road network length 138,127 km
Length of highway network 214 km
First highway 2002
Motorway name ፈጣን ንገድ ንገድ
Traffic drives Right
License plate code ETH

Ethiopia (Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ, ʾĪtyōṗṗyā) is a large country in eastern Africa. The country has 117 million inhabitants and is approximately 28 times the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Addis Ababa.


Ethiopia is located in the interior of East Africa, it borders Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan clockwise. The country measures a maximum of 1650 kilometers from west to east and 1250 kilometers from north to south. This makes it one of the largest countries in the world. The capital Addis Ababa is centrally located in the country.

The country consists of two major regions, the Ethiopian Highlands in the west and center and the flatter and lower Ogaden Desert in the east. The Rift Valley runs through the central part of Ethiopia. The landscape varies from tropical forests in the south, barren desert in the east and more temperate highlands in the center, west and north. To the north is Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. The Ethiopian Highlands are mostly 1000 to 2000 meters above sea level. The highest point of the country is the 4550 meter high mountain Ras Dashen in the north of the country. This is the tenth highest mountain in Africa.

The climate of Ethiopia is diverse. It is temperate in the highlands and hot in the lower east. The country is located in the tropics but due to the high altitude the climate is more temperate than the neighboring countries. The east and northeast has a desert climate, where temperatures are high all year round. Only the highest mountains have a more Alpine climate, with occasional snowfall on mountains higher than 4000m, this often happens at night in the summer as there is almost no precipitation in the winter. The capital Addis Ababa is located at 2300 meters altitude, the average maximum temperature throughout the year is between 21 and 24 °C and it never gets hotter than 30 °C, which makes it a relatively pleasant climate. Most of the precipitation falls in the period from June to September, but with 1200 mm there is some precipitation almost all year round, except for the period November-January, where there is almost no precipitation. Precipitation in Ethiopia is of great importance to the countries of Sudan and Egypt as most of the water in the Nile comes from Ethiopia.


In the 20th century, the population of Ethiopia has grown rapidly. The country had 18 million inhabitants in 1950 and grew to 65 million inhabitants in 2000 and more than 117 million inhabitants in 2021. The population growth is still one of the highest in the world and it is estimated that the country will have more than 200 million inhabitants by 2060..

Despite the more than 100 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is still relatively rural, only the capital Addis Ababa is a really large city with 3.3 million inhabitants.  In addition, there are 5 cities with around 300,000 inhabitants and 15 other cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Urbanization is increasing.

The population of Ethiopia is diverse, there are more than 80 ethnic groups. The largest groups are the Oromo (34%) and Amhara (27%). Other groups are smaller than 5%. Due to the diverse composition of the population, many languages ​​are also spoken. No language has a majority. The largest languages ​​are Oromo and Amharic, both of which are spoken by approximately 30% of the population. Amharic was traditionally the national language spoken in education, but has largely been replaced by regional languages. Amharic is still considered the working language of the Ethiopian government. Local authorities may determine their own working language. Amharic is written in the Ethiopian script, also known as Ge’ez. Limited English is spoken. Italian is still spoken on a small scale.


Ethiopia is the fastest growing country in Africa whose economy is not based on oil. However, the strong economic growth is mainly due to the large population growth, so that per capita income is not rising as fast as the GDP figures suggest. A large part of Ethiopia is poor, about 85% of the population works in agriculture, a significant part to provide for their own food. The main export product is coffee. A large part of the export consists of agricultural products, the country has relatively little industry and raw materials. The port of Djibouti is important for Ethiopia’s exports, as the country has no direct access to the sea.


In ancient times, the Kingdom of Aksum emerged, encompassing much of present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. This kingdom existed until the Middle Ages and was succeeded by the Ethiopian Empire, also known as Abyssinia or Abyssinia. Ethiopia was one of two countries in Africa that was not colonized by Europeans. Neighboring Eritrea was colonized by Italy, after which two wars were fought between Ethiopia and Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which eventually led to an Italian occupation from 1936. During the East Africa campaign of the Second World War, the Italians were defeated allies. It was then under British military administration for some time, but the United Kingdomrecognized Ethiopian sovereignty in 1944, and after World War II, the former Italian colony of Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia.

In 1961, a war of independence broke out in Eritrea, which would eventually last 30 years. The monarchy was overthrown in 1974, after which the Derg, a communist military dictatorship backed by the Soviet Union, was installed. In 1977, Somalia invaded and occupied the Ogaden Desert. Ethiopia then received large-scale military support from other communist countries, such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, East Germany and North Korea and managed to regain control of the Ogaden.

In 1977-1978, half a million people died during the Qey Shibir, also known as the Red Terror, a repressive campaign by the Derg. In the period 1983-1985 Ethiopia came on the world map when a million people died in a famine. After 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew its support, after which the power of the Derg began to crumble. Meanwhile, the Eritrean war of independence was still raging in the north, after which rebels took the capital Addis Ababa and the Derg came to an end.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and the first democratic elections were held in 1995. In the period 1998-2000, a border war with Eritrea followed, which had a negative impact on the Ethiopian economy. The country has since been an unstable democracy with sporadic inter-ethnic violence.


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