Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa that was never colonized. The country depends on what the soil can produce, and coffee is their main export commodity.
Key figures and facts
- Capital: Addis Ababa
- Ethnic groups: Oromos 34%, Amharas 27%, Somalis 6%, Tigrays 6%, Sides 4%, Guragas 3%, Wolayas 2%, Hadayas 2%, Afar 2%, Gamos 2%, others 12% (2007)
- Language: Oromo (official in the state of Oromia) 34%, Amharic (official national language) 29%, Somali (official language of Somali state) 6%, tigrinja (official language of the state of Tigray) 6%, sidamo 4%, wolaytta 2%, gurage 2 %, Afar (official language of the state of Afar) 2%, other 15%, English (the largest language taught in school), Arabic (2007)
- Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox 44%, Muslims 34%, Protestants 19%, Traditional Religions and Others 5% (2007)
- Population: 104 957 000
- Control Form: Federal Republic
- Area: 1 104 300 km²
- Currency: Birr
- GNP per capita: 1 734 PPP $
- National Day: May 28th
The population of Ethiopia is estimated at approximately 108 386 000 residents (2018), and annual population growth to 2.8 percent (2018). Birth and death rates are high, respectively 36 and 7.5 per thousand (2018). Infant mortality in the first half of the 1990s was 122 per 1,000 live births, but by 2018 it had dropped to 48 per 1,000.
The average life expectancy is estimated at 65.5 years for women and 60.5 years for men (2018). 43 percent of the population is estimated to be under 15, only 2.9 percent are 65 years and older (2018).
The population is not uniform and consists of many ethnic groups. The Semitic- speaking Amharas and Tigrans have traditionally been the dominant peoples. They live in the northern part of the country and around Addis Ababa, and according to the 2007 census (which includes Eritrea) accounted for 26.9 and 6.9 percent of the population respectively. Throughout the imperial era (the time before 1974), they formed a land-owned upper class in Ethiopia, and in addition, had political control. Even after the 1974 revolution, they retained their political leadership and many of their privileges.
The Oromans live in the central, eastern and southern parts of the country and make up 35 percent of the population. A small number (4 percent), but politically significant group is Somali. These are Muslims and live mainly as nomads in the Eastern Hararge area and in the Somali National Regional State (Ogaden), which accounts for almost a fifth of Ethiopia’s land area. They have long worked for the incorporation of their Ethiopian areas into Somalia.
Towards the border with Eritrea live afar (danakil) and saho, which are closely related to Somali both linguistically and culturally. These groups are also small in numbers. The largest ethnic group in the central southern part is sidamo (4 percent), while other groups in this area are kambata, hadiya and wolayta. At the borders of the west and south are a number of different people who are culturally related to the people groups in Sudan. Gurage is a small (2.5 percent), but influential business people.
According to the UN, Ethiopia in 2003 housed over 130,000 refugees from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. At the same time, some Ethiopians fled to Sudan because of war and food shortages. Repatriation of these is still ongoing and will probably continue for several years to come. Rioting, war and natural disasters have resulted in a large proportion of the population having poor living conditions.
The population density is on average 97 per inhabitant square km(2014), but the population is substantially concentrated to the highlands. The lower areas, especially in the east, are very sparsely populated. A migration program, launched in 1985, aimed to move approximately 1.5 million people from the drought-stricken areas north of the country (Wello) to more rainy areas in the southwest. The authorities aim to gather the agricultural population in large villages, thus facilitating the development of public service. Both the village and the migration program have met with resistance.
The vast majority of the population live in the countryside and live on agriculture. Only about 21 percent of the country’s population lives in cities. The largest city is the capital Addis Ababa with 6.2 million residents (2015). Other major cities are (residents of 2015): Dire Dawa (440,000 residents), Adama (324,000 residents) and Harer (232,000 residents).
Official language is Amharic, which belongs to the Semitic language group of the Afro-Asian language family. It is spoken primarily in the central and southern highlands. Other Semitic languages in Ethiopia are tiger grinia and tigers, which are spoken in the north. All three languages are developed from the classical Old Ethiopian language geez, which is now only used as liturgical and learned language. The Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asian language family is represented by the languages Oromo, Sidamo and Somali.
The majority of Ethiopia’s population is Christian (about 62 percent), distributed around 43 percent Orthodox, 18 percent Protestant and 0.6 percent Catholic. Muslims make up about 34 percent, while about 3 percent belong to traditional African religions. There was also an Ethiopian Jewish minority (falasha) who was largely evacuated to Israel in the years 1979-1991.