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location: WEST AFRICA / bordering Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya.

capital: Addis Ababa, population 3.4 million (4% of the total)

population: 79 million

languages: Amharic (Semitic)

religion: predominantly Orthodox Christian

currency: Ethiopian Birr (ETB)

 

 



HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Founded in the 10th Century BC, Modern Ethiopia has been able to trace its historic lineage back to the 5th Century BC Aksumite Empire. Ethiopia has never been colonised, although it went through a period of occupation (1936 41) under Mussolini. Ethiopia was considered an Empire for much of its history, most recently under Emperor Haile Selassie until a Soviet-backed coup in 1974 ushered in a communist state. Violent repression and insurgencies followed, culminating in the eventual collapse of the government and secession of the coastal region of Eritrea in 1993. Following a new constitution, democratic elections took place in 1995. Elections have seen gradually increased opposition participation ever since, with the latter gaining 185 seats in the somewhat controversial elections of 2005. The run up to the next in elections scheduled for May 23rd, 2010- has been similarly tense.


POPULATION, LANGUAGE & RELIGION:

The official language is Amharic (Semitic), although each state also has an official language. The total population amounts to 79 million people. The Omhoro and Amhara tribes combined account for two thirds of this. The states are organised along Ethnic Federalist lines, attracting criticism both from those concerned about loss of an Ethiopian identity as well as those groups, such as the Somali-linked Ogaden National Liberation Front, which demand greater independence. Religiously, Ethiopia is traditionally an Orthodox Christian country, but now includes substantial Moslem, and non-Orthodox Christian groupings. There are also significant minorities of Jews and Rastafaris.


CRIME & CORRUPTION RANKINGS:

Governance 37th,
Press Freedom 140th,
Corruption 120th,
Property Rights 98th


ECONOMY:

Nominal GDP amounted to USD26.4 billion in 2008, equivalent to USD333 per capita, with a Gini coefficient of 30 (medium). GDP has been growing strongly in Ethiopia, courtesy of a construction boom, but with agriculture, clothing and textiles, manufacturing and beverages also playing a part. It is ranked 9th in SSA in terms of ease of doing business.


NATURAL & AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES:

Ethiopia is a leading producer of Tantalum, used in electronics and inert alloys, as well as a lesser quantity of other industrial and precious metals. Ethiopia is the source of many of the Nile tributaries, enabling the export of electricity to neighbouring Sudan & Djibouti from 2010. Mean average rainfall is around 848mm per annum, albeit often concentrated in storms, with little in the way of external water sources. This provides 11 million hectares of cultivable land, or just 0.14 hectares per capita.


INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE:

Historically, Ethiopia was close to the USSR, in spite of being part of the non-aligned movement. However, it currently maintains good relations with the major world powers including China. Ethiopia relations with Somalia, Sudan and particularly Eritrea have been difficult largely due to territorial disputes, but Djibouti and Somaliland provide needed port services for the land-locked country. Kenya has been a long-standing ally.