Ethiopia flag Ethiopia: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Ethiopia

Foreign Trade in Figures

Ethiopia is relatively open to international trade, with a foreign trade-to-GDP ratio of 24% (World Bank, 2020). It is a member of the IGAD and the COMESA (but has not joined the free trade zone), and since March 2003, has been in the process of joining the WTO. As part of this process, the government is restructuring the customs tariffs. In order to rationalize investment opportunities, it has introduced lower duties on raw materials and semi-finished products. Ethiopia also recently signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and created special economic zones offering tax incentives and customs duties exemptions to investors. The country mainly exports coffee, oilseeds, vegetables, cut flowers, pulses, meat and manufacturing products. The main imported products are petroleum oils, medicines, wheat, palm oil, vehicles and fertilizers.

Ethiopia’s main customers are Somalia, the United States, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Djibouti. Its main suppliers are China, India, Turkey, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Japan. The peace agreements signed with Eritrea should favour economic relations between the two countries, and the water-sharing agreement concluded with Egypt and Sudan over the Nile River dam will ease the tensions between these neighbouring countries and promote economic relations. The Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line is expected to increase Ethiopia’s exports of manufactured goods. However, due to the conflict in the Tigray region and alleged human rights violations, the US removed Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade program, which will negatively impact trade in 2022.

Ethiopia's trade balance is historically in deficit, and this trend will continue due to the country's investment-led economy, which strongly encourages imports. Trade balance also partially depends on weather phenomenon, which sometimes forces Ethiopia, a large agricultural producer, to import grains during droughts. In 2020, imports of goods amounted to USD 13.12 billion, whereas exports of goods amounted to USD 3.26 billion. Ethiopia spent USD 5.38 billion in imports of services while export of services generated USD 4.32 billion. Imports of goods and services increased by 15.6% compared to 2019 while exports decreased by 0.5%. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exports suffered from the lack of tourism and the fall in activity of Ethiopian Airlines. Coffee production was also reduced due to security problems and population displacement (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 16,58816,07615,30514,55413,115
Exports of Goods (million USD) 4,6123,1632,7042,7413,258
Imports of Services (million USD) 3,6274,8446,1296,0795,375
Exports of Services (million USD) 2,9813,2644,5094,6544,318

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 34.931.131.228.824.0
Trade Balance (million USD) -11,917-11,206-11,021n/an/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -14,091-12,673-12,305n/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.0-7.52.218.515.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -8.17.711.817.7-0.5
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 27.123.522.820.916.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 7.87.68.47.97.1

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 12.50.00.00.00.0
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 0.60.00.00.00.0

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Member of African Union

Member of Common Market for Eastern and Souther Africa (COMESA)

Member of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Somalia 11.6%
United States 10.2%
Netherlands 7.5%
Saudi Arabia 7.4%
United Arab Emirates 6.7%
See More Countries 56.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 29.5%
India 10.5%
Turkey 5.7%
United States 5.1%
United Arab Emirates 4.8%
See More Countries 44.4%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

2.5 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated;...Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 31.5%
Other oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, whether or...Other oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, whether or not broken (excl. edible nuts, olives, soya beans, ground-nuts, copra, linseed, rape or colza seeds and sunflower seeds) 15.4%
Other vegetables, fresh or chilled (excl. potatoes...Other vegetables, fresh or chilled (excl. potatoes, tomatoes, alliaceous vegetables, edible brassicas, lettuce Lactuca sativa and chicory Cichorium spp., carrots, turnips, salad beetroot, salsify, celeriac, radishes and similar edible roots, cucumbers and gherkins, and leguminous vegatables) 10.2%
Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for...Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for bouquets or for ornamental purposes, fresh, dried, dyed, bleached, impregnated or otherwise prepared 7.5%
Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or...Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split 7.0%
See More Products 28.4%
14.1 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 11.2%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.3%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 3.1%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 3.0%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.0%
See More Products 76.5%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: June 2022