Ethiopia

Executive Summary

Over the last year, Ethiopia has undertaken unprecedented economic and political reforms.  The new Ethiopian government, led by Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed, who was sworn in on April 2, 2018, announced at the outset its plan to democratize the country, reform the economy, and increase private sector participation.  Early in his tenure, PM Abiy addressed some of the public’s numerous longstanding grievances, including: ending the State of Emergency imposed by the government prior to his ascension; closing a notorious detention center; releasing thousands of detained individuals; restoring mobile internet throughout the country; retiring members of the political “old guard,” who were perceived as in the way of reform; and, reframing the government’s posture towards opposition parties.

On the economic front, the new administration is working to partially or wholly privatize major state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the telecom, aviation, power, sugar, railway, and industrial parks sectors.  In addition, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) lifted a restriction on the logistics sector and enacted a law that allows Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to gradually open up some sectors of the economy to foreign investors.  Ethiopia’s rapprochement with Eritrea could possibly open up alternative ports for trade. Furthermore, the country recently ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and eased visa requirements for African Union member countries with the goal of enhancing regional trade and tourism and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).  The GOE announced its commitment to modernize the financial sector, improve the ease of doing business, and enhance macroeconomic and fiscal management.

Ethiopia’s economy is currently in transition.  Coming off a decade of double-digit growth, fueled primarily by public infrastructure projects funded through debt, the GOE has tightened its belt, reducing inefficient government expenditures, putting a moratorium on most new government mega-projects, and attempting to get its accounts in order at bloated state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  The IMF put the growth of the Ethiopian economy at 7.7 percent for FY2017/18 and is projecting an 8.5 percent annual growth rate for the medium term. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, with a population of over 100 million, approximately two-thirds of whom are under age 30. Low-cost labor, a national airline with 105 passenger connections, and growing consumer markets are key elements attracting foreign investment.

Ethiopia’s imports in the last year have experienced a slight decline in large part due to a reduction in public investment programs and a dire foreign exchange shortage.  Distressingly, export performance remains weak, declining due to falling primary commodity prices and an overvalued exchange rate. The acute foreign exchange shortage (the Ethiopian birr is not a freely convertible currency) and the absence of capital markets are choking private sector growth.  Companies often face long lead-times importing goods and dispatching exports due to logistical bottlenecks, high land-transportation costs, and bureaucratic delays. Ethiopia is not a signatory of major intellectual property rights treaties.

All land in Ethiopia belongs to “the people” and is administered by the government.  Private ownership does not exist, but “land-use rights” have been registered in most populated areas.  The GOE retains the right to expropriate land for the “common good,” which it defines to include expropriation for commercial farms, industrial zones, and infrastructure development.  Successful investors in Ethiopia conduct thorough due diligence on land titles at both the state and federal levels, and undertake consultations with local communities regarding the proposed use of the land.  The largest volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ethiopia comes from China, followed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Political instability associated with various ethnic conflicts could negatively impact the investment climate and lower future FDI inflow.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 114 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/country/ETH
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2019 159 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report#
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2018 $600 http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $740 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Ethiopia’s regulatory system is generally considered fair, though there are instances in which burdensome regulatory or licensing requirements have prevented the local sale of U.S. exports, particularly health-related products.  Investment decisions can involve multiple government ministries lengthening the registration and investment process.

The Constitution is the highest law of the country.  The Parliament enacts proclamations, which are followed by regulations that are passed by the Council of Ministers, and implementing directives that are passed by ministries or agencies.  The government engages the public for feedback before passage of draft legislation through public meetings, and regulatory agencies request comments on proposed regulations from stakeholders.  Ministries or regulatory agencies do neither impact assessment for proposed regulations nor ex-post reviews. Parties that are affected by an adopted regulation can request reconsideration or appeal to the relevant administrative agency or court.  But there is no requirement to periodically review regulations to see whether they are still needed or should be revised.

All proclamations and regulations in Ethiopia are published in official gazettes and most of them are available online http://www.hopr.gov.et/web/guest/122   and https://chilot.me/federal-laws/2/  

Legal matters related to the federal government are entertained by Federal Courts while state matters go to state courts.  To ensure consistency of legal interpretation and promote predictability of courts, the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division is empowered to give binding legal interpretation on all federal and state matters.  Though there are no publicly listed companies in Ethiopia, all banks and insurance companies are obliged to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Regulations related to human health and environmental pollution are often enforced.  In January 2019, the Federal and Oromia State Environment, Forest and Climate Changes Commissions shut down three tanneries in Oromia state for what was said to be repeated environmental pollution offenses.  The government also suspended the business license of MIDROC Gold Mine in May 2018 following weeks of protests by local communities who accused the company of causing health and environmental hazard in the Oromia regional state.  In February 2019, the Ethiopian parliament passed a bill entitled ‘Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation,’ which bans smoking in all indoor workplaces, public spaces, and means of public transport and prohibits alcohol promotion on broadcasting media.

Ethiopia is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures  .  Foreign and national investors can find detailed information from the investment commission website http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/investment-process   and https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia   on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations including the number of steps, name, and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time, and legal bases justifying the procedures.

The government released its five year public finance administration strategic plan (2018-2022) in March 2018, mapping out reforms in government revenue and expenditure forecasting, government accounts management, internal audit, public procurement administration, public debt management, and public financial transparency and accountability.  In support of this initiative, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) issued a directive on Public Financial Transparency and Accountability in October 2018. The directive mandates that all public institutions report their budgetary performance and financial accounts in platforms that are accessible to the wider public in a timely manner. It also makes the MOF responsible for disseminating a regular and detailed physical and financial performance evaluation of large publically-funded projects.  The directive further outlines a clear timeline for the publication of each major piece of budgetary information, such as the pre-budget macroeconomic and fiscal framework, the enacted budget, quarterly execution reports, annual execution reports, and the annual audit report.

International Regulatory Considerations

Ethiopia ratified the AfCFTA on March 21, 2019.  ACFTA aims to create a single, continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.  Ethiopia is also a member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional economic block, which has 21 member countries and has introduced a 10 percent tariff reduction on goods imported from member states.  However, Ethiopia has not yet joined the COMESA free trade area. Ethiopia resumed the WTO accession process in 2018, which began in 2003, with the goal of acceding in 2020.

Ethiopian standards, however, have a national scope and applicability and some of them, particularly those related to human health and environmental protection, are mandatory.  The Ethiopian Standards Agency is the national standards body of Ethiopia.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Ethiopia has codified criminal and civil laws, including commercial and contractual law.  According to the contractual law, a contract agreement is binding between contracting parties.  Disputes between the parties can be taken to the court. There are, however, no specialized courts for commercial law cases, although there are specialized benches both at the federal and state courts.

While there have been allegations of executive branch interference in judiciary cases with political implications, there is no evidence of interference in purely commercial disputes.  The country has a procedural code for civil and criminal court but the practice is minimal. Enforcement actions are appealable and there are at least three appeal processes from the lower courts to the Supreme Court.  The Criminal Procedure Code follows the inquisitorial system of adjudication.

Companies that operate businesses in Ethiopia assert that courts lack adequate experience and staffing, particularly with respect to commercial disputes.  While property and contractual rights are recognized, judges often lack understanding of commercial matters, including bankruptcy and contractual disputes.  In addition, cases often face extended scheduling delays. Contract enforcement remains weak, though Ethiopian courts will at times reject spurious litigation aimed at contesting legitimate tenders.

Ethiopia is in the process of reforming the Commercial Code to bring it in line with international best practices.  The draft legislation appears to address many concerns raised by the business community, including the creation of a commercial court under the regular court system to improve the expertise of judges as well as increase the speed with which commercial disputes can be resolved.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Proclamation and Regulation of 2012 (later amended in 2014), is Ethiopia’s main legal regime related to foreign direct investment (FDI).  These laws instituted the opening of economic sectors to FDI, the requirements for FDI registration, and the investment incentives that are available to investors.

The following industrial sectors have been designated investment priorities: textiles and garments, leather and leather products, sugar and sugar-related products, cement, metals and engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, and agro-processing.  Investments in those areas receive tax and duty incentives as established in Proclamation 769/2012  .

The 2014 amendment to the Investment Proclamation authorizes the EIC to adjudicate appeals submitted by foreign and domestic investors.  The EIC Investment Board is empowered to authorize the granting of new or additional incentives other than those outlined under the regulations and to authorize foreign investment in areas otherwise exclusively reserved for domestic investors, if the exception is in the national interest.  The EIC’s website  (http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/  ) outlines the government’s policy and priorities, registration processes, and provides regulatory details for investors.  In addition, the Ethiopian Investment Guide website (https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia  ) provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.

The revised Commercial Registration and Business Licensing Proclamation eliminated some cumbersome and duplicative requirements, including the yearly renewal of business registrations and the minimum capital requirements to set up limited liability companies, and requires a competency certificate in sectors such as health, security and environment.  The Proclamation allows registration of franchises and holding companies.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Ethiopia’s Trade Practice and Consumers Protection Authority (TPCPA), operating under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is tasked with promoting a competitive business environment by regulating anti-competitive, unethical, and unfair trade practices to enhance economic efficiency and social welfare.  It has an administrative tribunal with a jurisdiction on matters pertaining to market competition and consumer protection. The authority also annually entertains many cases associated with consumer protection and unfair trade practices.

There are no restrictions for foreign companies or foreign-owned subsidiaries in the areas open to foreign investments.  The EIC reviews investment transactions for compliance with FDI requirements and restrictions as outlined by the Investment Proclamation and its amendments. Nonetheless, companies have complained that SOEs receive favorable treatment in the government tender process.  The public sector’s heavy involvement in economic development means that SOEs often obtain a sizeable portion of open tenders.

Expropriation and Compensation

Per the 2012 Investment Proclamation, no investment by a domestic or foreign investor or enterprise can be expropriated or nationalized, wholly or partially, except when required by public interest in compliance with the law and with payment of adequate compensation.  Such investments may not be seized, impounded, or disposed of except under a court order.

The former Derg military regime nationalized many properties in the 1970s.  The current government’s position is that property seized lawfully by the Derg (by court order or government proclamation published in the official gazette) remain the property of the state.  In most cases, property seized by oral order or other informal means is gradually being returned to the rightful owners or their heirs through a lengthy bureaucratic process. Claimants are required to pay for improvements made by the government during the time it controlled the property.  Public Enterprises, Assets, and Administration stopped accepting requests from owners for return of expropriated properties in July of 2008.

According to local and foreign businesses operating in the Oromia region, there have been a number of isolated incidents threatening investors in the region.  Various pretexts have been used to close down legitimate operations. False charges have been filed with regional courts, property has been confiscated, and bank accounts have been frozen, all in the name of “returning the land” to the “rightful owners” or “creating job opportunities” for the youth.  Regional officials, however, deny any systematic attack on investors and have repeatedly provided assurance that all legitimate investors will be protected. Meanwhile, other investors who have invested heavily in government and community relations and actively engaged local and regional officials have prospered.  The experience of investors is overall uneven and clear trends are not evident.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1965, Ethiopia has been a non-signatory member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID) Convention, but has not ratified the convention on The Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The constitution as well as the investment law guarantees the right of any investor to lodge complaints related to his/her investment with the appropriate investment agency.  If he/she has a grievance against the decision, he/she can appeal to the investment board or to the respective regional agency as appropriate. While disputes can be resolved by international arbitration if both parties agree, enforcement of an arbitration decision is contingent on the Ethiopian court system.  However, if a dispute arises between foreign investors and the state, it will be settled based on the relevant bilateral investment treaty.

Due to an overloaded court system, dispute resolution can last for years.  According to the 2019 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, it takes on average 530 days to enforce contracts through the courts.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Arbitration has become a widely used means of dispute settlement among the business community as Ethiopian civil code recognizes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms as means of dispute resolution.  The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce has an Arbitration Center to assist with arbitration. However, there is no guarantee that the award of an international arbitral tribunal will be accepted and implemented by Ethiopian authorities.  Ethiopia is not a party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, which creates uncertainty for potential investors and serves as disincentive to invest. There are no publicly available statistics that indicate courts’ decision bias towards state-owned enterprises (SOEs) on investment/commercial disputes that involve them.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Ethiopian Commercial Code (Book V) outlines bankruptcy provisions and proceedings and   establishes a court system that has jurisdiction over bankruptcy proceedings. The primary purpose of the law is to protect creditors, equity shareholders, and other contractors.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized. In practice, there is limited application of bankruptcy procedures due to lack of knowledge on the part of the private sector.

According to the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report, Ethiopia stands at 148 in the ranking of 190 economies with respect to resolving insolvency.  Ethiopia’s score on the strength of insolvency framework index is 5.0. (Note: The index ranges from zero to 16, with higher values indicating insolvency legislation that is better designed for rehabilitating viable firms and liquidating nonviable ones.)

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Credit is tight and banks often require 100 percent collateral, making access to credit one of the greatest hindrances on the Ethiopian economy writ large.  A 2011 measure requiring non-government banks to invest the equivalent of 27 percent of their loan disbursement portfolio in National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) bonds has exacerbated liquidity shortages.

Ethiopia does not have securities markets, and sales/purchases of debt are heavily regulated.  The government is drafting legislation to regulate the over-the-counter market for private share companies.  In March 2019, Moody’s reaffirmed Ethiopia’s credit worthiness at ‘B1 stable,’ while S&P and Fitch maintained their original rating of ‘B.’  According to Moody’s, Ethiopia’s credit profile reflects its very high levels of economic growth; strong investment in infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing; and, low debt-servicing costs set against challenges that include external vulnerability risks and internal stability problems.  Moody’s expects Ethiopia’s economy to grow by approximately 8 percent over the next few years. It puts external vulnerability, geopolitical risk, continued social unrest, and the vulnerability of its relatively small economy to weather cycles and volatility in coffee and gold prices as the key credit challenges going forward.  Conversely, successful export diversification, the smooth and timely completion of infrastructure programs, improved business conditions, a structural reduction of external vulnerabilities leading to a steady accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, and a cessation of domestic and regional geopolitical tensions would all improve Ethiopia’s credit profile.

The Ethiopian government has announced, as part of the overall economic reform effort, its intention to liberalize the financial sector, to include introducing capital markets, opening the banking sector to foreign companies, expanding credit available to the private sector, enabling a system of e-commerce, and expanding the monetary policy tools available to the NBE.  While most outside observers believe that PM Abiy Ahmed and other key economic officials are sincere in their intentions, entrenched interests, low capacity, and financial constraints will likely delay the full implementation of these goals.

The government offers a limited number of 28-day, 3-month, and 6-month Treasury bills, but prohibits the interest rate from exceeding the bank deposit rate.  The government began to offer a one-year Treasury bill in 2011, with yields currently below 3 percent. This market remains unattractive to the private sector and 100 percent of the T-bills are held by public enterprises, primarily the Public Social Security Agency and the Development Bank of Ethiopia.  The NBE plans to introduce a market for government securities, corporate bonds, and a stock market.

In December 2014, Ethiopia issued its first eurobond, raising USD 1 billion at a rate of 6.625 percent.  The 10-year bond was oversubscribed, indicating continued market interest in high-growth sub-Saharan African markets.  According to the Ministry of Finance, the bond proceeds are being used to finance industrial parks, the sugar industry, and power transmission infrastructure.  Due to an increasing external debt load, the Ethiopian government has committed to refrain from non-concessional financing for new projects and to shift ongoing projects to concessional financing when possible.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), launched in 2008, trades commodities such as coffee, sesame seeds, maize, wheat, mung beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and green beans.  The government launched ECX to increase transparency in commodity pricing, alleviate food shortages, and encourage the commercialization of agriculture. Critics allege that ECX policies and pricing structures are inefficient compared to direct sales at prevailing market rates, triggering an amendment to the ECX law in July 2017, which eliminated a number of criticized regulations, and permitted the trading of financial instruments at a future date.  This amendment paves the way for securities markets in the future using the framework of the commodities exchange.

Money and Banking System

Ethiopia has seventeen commercial banks, two of which are state-owned banks, and fifteen of which are privately owned banks.  The Development Bank of Ethiopia, a state-owned bank, provides loans to investors in priority sectors. In September 2011, the NBE raised the minimum paid-up capital required to establish a new bank from ETB 75 million to 500 million, which effectively stopped the entry of most new banks.  Foreign banks are not permitted to provide financial services in Ethiopia; however, since April 2007, Ethiopia has allowed some foreign banks to open liaison offices in Addis Ababa to facilitate credit to companies from their countries of origins. Chinese, German, Kenyan, Turkish, and South African banks have opened liaison offices in Ethiopia, but the market remains completely closed to foreign retail banks.

Based on recently made available data, the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia mobilizes more than 60 percent of total bank deposits, bank loans, and foreign exchange.  The NBE controls the bank’s minimum deposit rate, which now stands at 7 percent, while loan interest rates are allowed to float. Real deposit interest rates have been negative in recent years, mainly due to inflation.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All foreign currency transactions must be approved by the NBE.  Ethiopia’s national currency (the Ethiopian birr) is not freely convertible.  In September 2018, the GOE removed the limit on holding foreign currency accounts faced by non-resident Ethiopians and non-resident foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin.

Foreign exchange reserves were heavily depleted in 2012 and have remained at critically low levels since then.  By June 2018, gross reserves were USD 2.2 billion, covering approximately 1.6 months of imports. According to the IMF, heavy government infrastructure investment, along with debt servicing and a large trade imbalance, have all fueled the intense demand for foreign exchange.  In addition, the decrease in foreign exchange reserves has been exacerbated by weaker-than-expected earnings from coffee exports and low international commodity prices for other important exports such as gold and oil seeds. Businesses encounter delays of six months to two years in obtaining foreign exchange, and they must deposit the full equivalent in birr in their account to begin the process to obtain foreign exchange.  The foreign exchange crunch has intensified recently, with delays of more than a year reported. Slowdowns in manufacturing due to foreign exchange shortages are common, and high-profile local businesses have closed their doors altogether due to the inability to import required goods in a timely fashion.

Although government policy gives the repatriation of profits “priority,” in reality, due to the foreign exchange shortage, companies have experienced delays of up to two years in the repatriation of larger volumes of profits.  Local sourcing of inputs and partnering with export-oriented partners are strategies employed by the private sector to address the foreign exchange shortage, but access to foreign exchange remains a problem that limits growth, interferes with maintenance and spare parts replacement, and inhibits imports of adequate raw materials.

The foreign exchange shortage distorts the economy in a number of other ways: it fuels the contraband trade through Somaliland because birr is an unofficial currency there and can be used for the purchase of products from around the world.  Exporters, who have priority access to foreign exchange, sell their allocations to importers at inflated rates, creating a black-market for dollars that is roughly 33 percent over the official rate. Other exporters use their foreign exchange earnings to import consumer goods with high margins rather than re-investing profits in their core business.  Meanwhile, the lack of access to foreign exchange impacts the ability of American citizens living in Ethiopia to pay their taxes, or for students to pay school fees abroad.

According to data from NBE, the birr depreciated approximately 98 percent against the U.S. dollar between August 2010 and February 2018, primarily through a series of controlled steps, including a 20 percent devaluation in September 2010 and a 15 percent devaluation in October 2017.  As of March 2019, the official exchange rate was approximately 28.40 birr per dollar. The illegal parallel market exchange rate for the same time was approximately 36 per dollar with spikes up to 38 birr per dollar.

Following the 15 percent devaluation of the Ethiopian birr, the NBE increased the minimum saving interest rate from four percent to seven percent, and limited the outstanding loan growth rate in commercial banks to 16.5 percent, which limits their loan provision for businesses other than export and manufacturing sectors.  Moreover, banks were instructed to transfer 30 percent of their foreign exchange earnings to the account of NBE so the regulator can use the foreign exchange to meet the strategic needs of the country, including payments to procure petroleum and sugar, as well as to cover transportation costs of imported items.

Ethiopia’s Financial Intelligence Unit monitors suspicious currency transfers, including large transactions exceeding ETB 200,000 (roughly equivalent to U.S. reporting requirements for currency transfers exceeding USD 10,000).  Ethiopia citizens are not allowed to hold or open an account in foreign exchange. Ethiopian residents entering the country from abroad should declare their foreign currency in excess of USD 1,000 and non-residents in excess of USD 3,000. Residents are not allowed to hold foreign currency for more than 30 days after acquisition.  A maximum of ETB 1000 in cash can be carried out of the country.

Remittance Policies

Ethiopia’s Investment Proclamation allows all registered foreign investors, whether or not they receive incentives, to remit profits and dividends, principal and interest on foreign loans, and fees related to technology transfer.  Foreign investors may remit proceeds from the sale or liquidation of assets, from the transfer of shares or of partial ownership of an enterprise, and funds required for debt servicing or other international payments. The right of expatriate employees to remit their salaries is granted by NBE foreign exchange regulations.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ethiopia has no sovereign wealth funds.

9. Corruption

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) is charged with preventing corruption and is accountable to the Office of the Prime Minister.  The Commission is mandated to provide ethics training and education to prevent corruption.  The investigation and prosecution of corruption crimes are the mandates of the Federal Police Commission and the Federal Attorney General, respectively.

The Federal Police are mandated to investigate corruption crimes committed by public officials as well as “Public Organizations.”  The latter are defined as any organs in the private sector that administer money, property, or any other resources for public purposes.  Examples of such organizations include share companies, real estate agencies, banks, insurance companies, cooperatives, labor unions, professional associations, and others.

Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, rated Ethiopia’s corruption at 34 (the score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of zero to 100, with the former indicating highly corrupt and the latter indicating very clean).  Its comparative rank in 2018 was 114 out of 180 countries, compared to 107 out of 180 countries in 2017.

In December, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia polled its members and asked what the leading business climate challenges were.  Transparency and governance ranked as the 4th leading business climate challenge, ahead of licensing and registration and public procurement.

Ethiopian and foreign businesses routinely encounter corruption in tax collection, customs clearance, and land administration.  Many past procurement deals for major government contracts, especially in the power generation, telecommunications, and construction sectors were widely viewed as corrupt.

PM Abiy Ahmed has launched a corruption clean-up that has resulted in several hundred arrests.  In connection with the embezzlement schemes involving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, particularly with government procurement irregularities, the government arrested and charged in September 2018 over 40 mid- and senior-level Metal Engineering Technology Corporation (METEC) officials.  In addition, the PM transferred the management of large government projects from METEC (which is widely viewed by the public as corrupt) to other government organizations. Similarly, in April 2019, the government arrested 59 officials and business people suspected of corruption. The officials are primarily from the following government institutions: Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service, Food & Drug Administration Agency, Pharmaceuticals Fund & Supply Agency, and the Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise.

Ethiopia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  Ethiopia is a signatory to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Ethiopia is also member of the East African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities.  In 2003, Ethiopia signed the UN Anticorruption Convention that was ratified in November 2007.  It is a criminal offense to give or receive bribes, and bribes are not tax deductible.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contacts at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Federal Police Commission
Addis Ababa
+251 11 861-9595

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Transparency Ethiopia
Addis Ababa
+251 11 827-9746
Email: TiratEthiopia@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

Ethnic conflict —often sparked by historical grievances or resource competition, including land disputes— has resulted in varying levels of violence that have internally displaced as many as two million people nationwide.  Communal conflict between Oromos and Somalis has persisted along their shared border.  Remnants of the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition movement, have battled ethnic neighbors, regional security forces, and the military.  In the south, conflict between communities in the Guji and Gedeo zones has been particularly violent and intractable.  Disputed territory in the north between the Amhara and Tigray regions is a continuing flash point.  Recent violence between Oromos and Amharas has occurred along a main road from Addis Ababa to the north.

Under PM Abiy’s administration, political space in Ethiopia has opened dramatically.  Constitutional rights, including freedoms of assembly and expression, are broadly respected.  Political prisoners have been released. Opposition parties have been allowed to form or return to the country, and they operate freely. Independent media is re-establishing itself, and laws are being revised to facilitate the rebuilding of civil society.  Nationwide elections are scheduled for May of 2020.  The electoral and pre-electoral period could represent a potential catalyst for unrest.

PM Abiy has also initiated a process of modernization, de-politicization, professionalization, and civilian accountability in his security services.  The past year provides numerous examples where security forces have allowed demonstrators space to operate peacefully.  In some instances, though, security forces have failed to stop ethnic violence in a timely fashion.  Though foreigners are rarely, if ever, specifically targeted, spillover ethnic violence has occasionally resulted in the deaths of foreign employees.

The new administration has also increased regional autonomy.  Successful American investors tell us that understanding the different business climates across the regions—there are different regional taxation regimes, unique ethnic conflicts, varying levels of reception towards profit-making companies, and contrasting approaches to policing and security issues—is key to successfully investing in Ethiopia.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2017/18 $84,356 2017 $80,561 www.worldbank.org/en/country  
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2018 $600  2018 N/A http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/  
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2017 N/A 2017 N/A http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm  
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 10.6% 2017 23.6% http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx  

*National Bank of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Investment Commission


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars*, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $8,930  100% Total Outward*** N/A N/A
China $2,219  24.9% N/A N/A N/A
Saudi Arabia $1,525  17.1% N/A N/A N/A
Turkey $917  10.3% N/A N/A N/A
India $719 8.1% N/A N/A N/A
EU** $685 7.7% N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Data regarding inward direct investment are not available for Ethiopia via IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) site (http://data.imf.org/CDIS  ) so we have used data from Ethiopian investment Commission.

*The yearly average exchange rate is used for each year from 1992-2017 to convert the amount of FDI from domestic currency into USD.
** EU includes Netherlands, France, Ireland, Germany and UK.
*** Total Outward investment data are not available.


Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data regarding the equity/debt breakdown of portfolio investment assets are not available for Ethiopia via the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) and are not available for external publication from the Government of Ethiopia.

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