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Ethiopia

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Trading Partner:

Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union(OCFCU).

Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union

Country Statistics:

  • Total Population: 90,873,739 (2011)
  • Median age: 17 years (2011)
  • Life Expectancy: 56 years (2011)
  • Per capita GDP: $900 PPP (2009)
  • Ethnicities:
    -Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4% (1994)
  • Major export products: coffee, qat, gold, leather products, live animals, oilseeds
  • Monetary unit: 1 birr = 10 US cents

Background

Widely believed to be both the cradle of civilization (bones discovered in eastern Ethiopia date back 3.2 million years) as well as the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has a rich heritage despite its current status as one of the poorest countries of the world.  Though it was never officially conquered and colonialized by any foreign power like most of its African neighbor countries, its independence did not afford it any more prosperous a past.  With the majority of its population surviving on less than $1 a day, the poverty of this nation is overwhelming. But its people paint a remarkable picture of resilience with an extraordinary capacity to carry on through the many hardships they've been dealt throughout history.

Sidama Union childrenThe economy is based on agriculture which accounts for almost half of the country's GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of employment.  Coffee production is at the heart of Ethiopia's agricultural sector but the historically low prices in the first decade of the new millennium have forced many farmers to switch from coffee to "qat," a plant-derived drug-like substance used as a stimulant.

Historically, Ethiopia was ruled under a number of emperors until the 1930s when Italian Fascist forces invaded and briefly occupied the country.  In 1974, a military junta deposed Emperor Haile Selassie who had ruled since 1930 and established a socialist state.  The regime was toppled in 1991 by rebel forces and the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) claimed power.  A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in the following year.

A border war with Eritrea in the late 1990s ended in 2000 but had devastating effects on the Ethiopian economy and population.  The war and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. In November 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in December 2005 the IMF voted to forgive Ethiopia's debt to the body.

Ethiopia's dire economic situation begs for attention.  With falling coffee prices over the last 20 years and massive debt, the people are left to live in extremely precarious conditions.  Thankfully, programs like fair trade are slowly but surely making a difference in the daily lives of the Ethiopians.

Resources:
CIA World Factbook: Ethiopia

US State Department Country Notes

BBC Country Profile (April 2009)

Ethiopian Tourism website

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