I. GENERAL BACKGROUND
Geography and Climate
Ethiopia is strategically located in the horn of Africa at crossroads between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It covers an area of approximately 1.14 million square kilometers (445,000 square miles), and borders Djibouti and Somalia to the East and South East, Eritrea to the north, the Sudan to the West and South West, and Kenya to the south.
Geographically, Ethiopia is a country blessed with immense contrasting physical features. It has a topography featuring high and rugged mountains, flat-topped plateaus, deep gorges, incised river valleys, vast rolling plains and low lands. Its altitude ranges from 148 meters below sea level at the Dallol Depression in the northeast, to the highest peak at the Mount Ras Dashen, which is 4620 meters above sea level in the northwest of the country. Surrounding the highlands, which constitute 56% of the total area of the country, are extensive low lands with altitudes of less than 1,000 meters.
Ethiopia is also endowed with other fascinating geographical features which include, among other things, theï¿½ï¿½ Great Rift Valley, which divides the country into western and eastern highlands, and canyons, gorges and river basins such asï¿½ theï¿½ Abbay (Blue Nile), Awash, Baro, Omo, Tekeze, Genale and Wabe Shebele.
Ethiopia has a climate varying from cold to temperate and from sub-tropical to tropical. Although Ethiopia lie within 150 degrees north of the equator, owing to the moderating influence of high altitude, much of the country enjoys a temperate and pleasant climate, with average temperature rarely exceeding 200c (680F).
The sparsely populated lowlands typically have sub-tropical and tropical climates. At approximately 850 mm (34 inches), the average annual rainfall for the whole country is considered to be moderate by global standards. In most of the highlands, rainfall occurs in two distinct seasons: The "small rains" during February and March, and the "big rains" from June to September.
Ethiopia has various agro-ecological zones and three main climatic zones:
- Tropical rainy region, having an altitude of over 2500 meters above sea level;
- Dry climatic region of hot low land lying up to 1500 meters above sea level; and
- Warm temperate wet region lying between1500-2500 meters above sea level.
According to the 2007 national population and housing census, Ethiopia had a counted population of about 73.75 million, where males constituted for 50.5% and the balance 49.5% was the share of females. Estimated at annual growth rate of 2.6% the population in 2009/10 estimated to be nearly 80 million. At present, Ethiopia is one of the most populous countries in Africa. The annual population growth rate is estimated to be 2.6% and population density of 64.1 per sq. km (2007). About 83.9% of the population lived in rural areas while the rest 16.1% was urban population. Average life expectancy is 53.42 and 55.42 years for males and females respectively. With regard to working age population, urban workforce constitutes about 6.95 million while rural workforce is 32.6 million (2007).ï¿½
ï¿½Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world and its people have an ancient culture and deep-rooted values. Its culture and tradition dates back over 3,000 years. In fact, the 3.5 million-year-old skeleton of "Lucy" or Australopithecus at Hadar, in the Afar Region, the 4.4 million-year-old remains of Australopithecus Remides which is considered to be man's anthropoid ancestor, and the earliest hand tools of humans unearthed in the Omo Valley make the country the oldest home of mankind on the planet.
The Ethiopian people are ethnically and culturally diverse. Thus, there are about 80 ethnic groups. The Oromo and the Amhara are the dominant ethnic groups, jointly accounting for 62.2% of the total population according to the 2007 census report.
Amharic is the official working language of the Federal Government. English is the medium of instruction in secondary schools and higher education institutions; and it is also widely used in business transaction, particularly in banking and insurance. Ethiopia's population is predominantly Christian (62.7%), Muslim (33.9%), and traditional animist religions and others (3.3%) which is being practiced by many ethnic groups in some parts of the country.
Government and Political System
Ethiopian constitution that established the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) has been adopted in 1995. The Constitution provides for a federal system of the State, which is structurally based on the Federal Government and nine autonomous States and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa).
The FDRE has a parliamentarian form of government with a bicameral parliament, which comprises the House of Peoples' Representatives and the House of the Federation. The House of the Peoples' Representatives is the upper authority of the Federal Government while the House of the Federation represents the interests of the nations, nationalities and peoples of the States. The Country has conducted a nationwide peaceful election in May, 2010 for the seats of the Federal House of Peopleï¿½s Representatives (Members of Parliament) and members of Regional Councils. According to election results disclosed by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, the current ruling party (EPRDF) managed to win by obtaining dominant majority vote that would enable it to stay in power for the coming five years.
Cities and Towns
Addis Ababa, the Federal capital, was founded in 1886, and the 2007 census shows the city had a population of about 2.74 million. It located in the central plateau at an altitude of 2,400 meters 90 north of the equator.ï¿½ Its average temperature is 160c while its annual rainfall is 1221 millimeters.ï¿½ It is the seat of the African Union (AU), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and more than 92 embassies and consulates.
Several other international organizations have their head quarters (FAO Regional Office for instance) and branch /country/ offices. It is also the center of commerce and industry for the country, where Mercato, the largest open-air market in Africa, is also found in Addis Ababa.
Addis Ababa has much to offer to international visitors. It has magnificent museums, monuments, and cultural heritages. The major attracting museums include the National Museum, Addis Ababa Museum, Ba'ata Museum, Entoto Museum, St. George Cathedral Museum, Ethnographic Museum and Zoological Natural History. Some of the monuments are Emperor Menelik's Monument, Bishop Peter's Monument, Victory monuments, Martyr's monument of Italian invaders, Ethio-Cuba Friendship Memorial monument, and ï¿½ï¿½Red Terrorï¿½ï¿½ Martyrs Memorial Museum, etc. There are also palaces, churches and mosques worth visiting.
ï¿½Manufacturing plants for steel products; leather and leather products, textiles and garments, tires, wool, food beverages, floriculture farms are among the establishments located in and around Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa has underway huge real estate development both for residential, office and commercial purposes along with big road network expansion. The Gotera interchange road, the first of in its kind for the Country can be mentioned in the forefront.
ï¿½Ethiopia's other important centers of trade and industries are: Awassa, Dire Dawa, Gonder, Dessie, Nazareth (Adama), Debrezeit/Dukem, Sebeta, Jimma, Harrar, Bahir Dar, Mekelle, Debre Markos and Nekemte. All these towns are connected to Addis Ababa by Asphalt roads, and most of them have good infrastructure facilities, such as, first class hotels and airports. Express highway connecting Addis Ababa with Adama /Nazareth/ is under construction.
The monetary unit of Ethiopian currency is the "Birr" and most recently, starting from September 1, 2010 the government made devaluation of Birr against USD where the minimum exchange rate to be Birr 16.35 for 1 USD. As of September 6, 2010, immediately after 5 days of the official devaluation of Birr was announced by the government, the average exchange rates were Birr 16.36, 21.01 and 25.21 for a unit of USD, EURO and Pound Sterling respectively. But before the official devaluation, for instance on August 23, 2010 the exchange rates were Birr 13.6152, 17.2913 and 21.077 for 1unit of each of the above mentioned foreign currencies. On daily basis however, the exchange rates have exhibited a stable situation with only marginal/slight changes. Compared to 2008 (average for selected days in December, January and February); the value of birr against USD and EURO on had been depreciated by 77.44% and 56.09% respectively on September 6, 2010. Such large amount of depreciation had partly been emanated from gradual process over the last two years and further aggravated by the recent official devaluation. It is the governmentï¿½s conviction for the devaluation of Birr would encourage export and could have deterrent effect on many of the imported consumable items. The exchange rate of the Birr continued to be determined in the daily inter-bank market with the National Bank of Ethiopia intervening in the market as required. Copper and silver coins are circulated in value of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. Currency notes are printed in denominations of Birr 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100. The process for replacing existing 1 Birr paper note by coins being finalized where national Bank of Ethiopia received the minted coins from Canadian company and distributed to commercial banks and expected to be circulated in the most near future. Foreign currency can be exchanged at the Airport on arrival, at the public and private banks, or licensed hotels.
Calendar and Working Hours
The use of Julian calendar was discarded by Europeans some 400 years ago, but Ethiopia still uses the Julian calendar which divides the year into 12 months of 30 days each, with the remaining five (or six days in a leap year) constituting the short 13th month of "Pagume." The Ethiopian New Year commences on September 11th or 12th (every leap year). Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 time zones. The government office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. Working hours on Friday are 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Private and public businesses are often open on Saturdays as well.