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Ethiopia Country Report

Country Risk Level

High

Overview

Executive Summary

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition agreed in November 2019 to merge into a single party, the Prosperity Party (PP). Legislative elections, previously scheduled for August 2020, were postponed indefinitely in March because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak and will probably be held during April–June 2021 at the earliest. Previously dominant coalition member the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front did not join the PP, while ethno-nationalist factions of Ahmed's Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) and the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) will likely defect to support regional opposition parties. The PP's core will remain an alliance between the ODP and ADP, together currently controlling 58% of parliamentary seats. Following the reduced demand for merchandise exports in markets affected by COVID-19, IHS Markit has revised Ethiopia’s GDP growth forecast down to 3.1% (from 7.4%) for 2020. Privatisations have been the government’s growth strategy, although they are likely to be slow in aviation, energy, logistics, and telecommunications because of increasing risk aversion to the likely opaque debt profile of these state-owned assets. Consequently, foreign-currency scarcity is very likely to persist because of an imbalance between high import volumes and lower exports. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, export earnings amounted to USD757.6 million, while the import bill was USD3.6 billion. Smaller businesses face foreign-currency delays exceeding 90 days and delayed letter-of-credit payments affect importers. Asian and white individuals, especially in Somali region, face harassment and physical assault in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Localised mob violence and militia small-arms violence between rival political, ethnic, and security-forces groups are likely around adjustments to administrative boundaries, referendums on creating regional states, and legislative elections. Rioting poses looting and damage risks to foreign-owned commercial cargo vehicles, coffee farms, and washing stations.

Operational Outlook

The most likely targets for government investigations into slow project implementation and misappropriation of funding are state-owned Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) and state-directed and -owned conglomerates that have benefited from priority access to foreign exchange and more lenient credit provision from state-owned banks. The perceived success of protest movements in 2018 is likely driving increasingly assertive behaviour by unofficial labour groups and "youth activist" gangs, particularly in Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations, Sidama, Somali, and Afar. This will likely drive strikes at industrial parks, in public transportation and construction, demands for local ownership of projects (particularly during privatisations and contract renewals), and mining site invasions by illegal miners and looters.

Terrorism

High

Across Ethiopia, administrative boundary adjustments and (indefinitely postponed) elections will drive localised attack risks. In Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali region, western and southern Oromia, northwest Amhara, and southern Afar, armed groups pose small-arms attack risks to security forces, state-owned assets, local civilians, and road travellers and cargo. Large commercial investments, particularly inside industrial parks, are unlikely to be directly targeted. Successful Al-Shabaab IED attacks in Addis Ababa are unlikely, but Ethiopia remains an aspirational target for the group because of the presence of its troops in Somalia. Al-Shabaab attacks would be most likely in the Somali region or Addis Ababa. Infrequent gun and grenade attacks in Addis Ababa are probable, especially around protests.

Crime

High

Crime is a growing problem, including in urban areas, although crime levels are low by regional standards. Violent crime (particularly robbery) has increased in Addis Ababa, and while most incidents involve edged weapons rather than firearms (limiting death and injury risks), the use of firearms and fake police uniforms by criminals has also increased. There have also been multiple well-publicised police interceptions of large quantities of smuggled weapons, including into Addis Ababa. Cash-intensive businesses and locals are most likely to be robbery targets, but the risk also extends to expatriates. There will likely be marginal increases in opportunist theft among displaced populations from the drought, particularly around food distribution centres. The release of thousands of criminals from prison, in order to ease jail congestion during the COVID-19 pandemic, will likely act as a driver of higher petty crime. Organised crime is largely limited to rural banditry (especially on the road from Gondar to Sudan, southern Oromia and the Somali region), cattle rustling (especially in Somali region and southern Oromia), and bank robberies staged by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which is particularly active in western and southern Oromia, and human trafficking to neighbouring countries.

War Risks

Interstate war risks have decreased following Eritrea and Ethiopia's July 2018 peace declaration, ending the 18-year 'No peace, no war' stalemate, despite Eritrea's ongoing border closure. Although escalation to civil war is unlikely, the probability is increasing of security forces being drawn into escalating political competition ahead of indefinitely postponed elections (likely in mid-2021 at the earliest). Covert parallel structures of influence have emerged within federal and regional state security forces. A federal blockade in response to Tigray holding unilateral elections in early September is more likely than federal troops being deployed. War with Egypt is unlikely, despite differences over Nile water allocations and the planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Social Stability

Recurring mob violence – involving edged weapons, arson, and vandalism – between rival political and ethnic groups will become more frequent and widespread across Ethiopia in the run-up to indefinitely postponed elections (likely held in mid-2021 at the earliest), and around the creation of new regional states or districts. Well-guarded urban commercial assets and industrial parks will largely not be directly affected, but protests will pose risks to banks (looting) and commercial flower and coffee projects in Oromia, Sidama, and SNNPR (arson and vandalism). Political competition between ruling and opposition parties will likely intensify (especially in Afar, Amhara, and Oromia), further driving protests. Spontaneous demonstrations in Addis Ababa are becoming more frequent.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission and over one year of age.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Yellow Fever: A vaccine is available for children over the age of one year.

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Meningococcal Meningitis: For prolonged stays, or in case your travels will put you in close contact with a local population affected by an epidemic of the disease (for children over the age of two years).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

The country is affected by extreme climates; both the rainy season which frequently causes flooding, and periods of drought have devastating consequences. Some 7.7 million people are struggling with famine in Ethiopia amid a severe and deadly drought.

Furthermore, Ethiopia is situated in a seismic zone.

Transportation

The transportation infrastructure in the country is largely obsolete, insufficient, and degraded. During the rainy season (June to September), a number of roads are not navigable. The danger on highways is worsened by a general lack of adherence to traffic laws, the poor condition of many of the vehicles, and the lack of health facilities. The absence of street lighting and traffic lights makes traveling at night inadvisable. Instigators of traffic accidents are liable to face a fine or prison sentence. Following an accident, one should remain at the site and call the police. In cases of injury to a third party, one is expected to take the victim directly to hospital. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality rate in Ethiopia is one of the highest in the world.

Outside of major cities, travel by road should be undertaken by day in an all-terrain vehicle (4x4), with a driver and preferably in convoy. One should also travel supplied with extra water and fuel. It is advisable to ensure that your vehicle is equipped with replacement parts (spare tire, cables, etc.) as well as telecommunications devices. Individuals should always carry a means of identification (e.g. passport and visa). During travel in the capital, it is advisable to communicate travel arrangements to a trusted confidant.     

Intercity travel via road can prove perilous. Official and unofficial roadblocks are frequent. Furthermore it is recommended to remain vigilant when traveling in isolated regions; cases of armed theft, carjacking, and the presence of bandits have been reported across the country.   

Public transport should be avoided. Taxis may be used provided that they have been ordered via telephone prior to being taken; taxis should not be hailed in the street. There is a railroad between Dire Daouna and Djibouti that has recently been constructed, however it is not advisable to use the rail system. 

The safest means of transport within the country is plane. Ethiopian Airlines provides flights connecting all major cities.

Practical Information

Climate

The west and east of the country experience persistently high temperatures during the summer months. Only the central plateau has a more temperate climate (mild temperatures during the day, cool at night). The rainy season begins in mid-June and lasts until mid-September. Lighter rain is common in March and April.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +251
Police: 1 110 055
Ambulance: 1 613 622

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal