7.1 Demographics


Capital Addis Ababa
Official Language Amharic
Government Federal republic
President Girma Wolde-Giorgis
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Population 2005 est. 73 mill
Area 1 127 127 km2
GDP 2005 est.
Total $60 billion
Per capita (PPP) $800
Life expectancy 2006 est.
Male 47.86 years
Female 50.24 years
Literacy 2003 est.
Male 50.3%
Female 35.1%


Figure 7.1: Map of Ethiopia

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is the largest country on the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is a mountainous country with a high central plateau cut in half by the Great Rift Valley. A map of Ethiopia can be seen in figure 7.1. Ethiopia is an ethnically diverse country with more than 80 different ethnic groups speaking 84 indigenous languages. It is also one of the worlds poorest nations, with around half the population living under the poverty line. The infrastructure of Ethiopia is poorly developed.

Ethiopia is a country with long history and was the home of the Axumite kingdom. The Axumite kingdom was technically advanced for its time. Ethiopia has developed its own script, the Ge’ez script, and its own written languages. The name Ge’ez come from an ancient language now only used in the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Ge’ez also refers to the script used to write Amharic and other languages in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia this script is called Fidel.

Ethiopia uses its own calendar system. The Ethiopian calendar is similar to the Julian calendar used in eastern orthodox churches, but with the significant difference that it has 13 months. The first 12 month have 30 days and the last month have 5 days in regular years and 6 in leap years. Thus the length of the year is the same as in the Julian calendar, which have 12 months of irregular sizes (30, 31 or (28/29)). The Oromo people have yet another calendar.

All the population related data are uncertain. A census have not been made since 1994. The current size of the population and the percentage of different ethnic groups and religion are all estimates. The percentage of the different ethnic groups and religions are politically sensitive and therefore it is reason to be critical to the estimates.

The Oromo and the Amhara people are the two domination ethnic groups in Ethiopia and the Tigrayan people are mostly living in Tigray, where I worked. According to the CIA World Fact Book 40% belonging to the Oromo people, 32% belonging to the Amhara and Tigrayan people. According to the 1994 census 32.1% identified themselves as Oromo, 30.2% identified themselves as Amhara and 6.2% identified themselves as Tigrayan. I have also found a survey from 2005 which focused on demographics and health ((Director) 2005). This survey was made on a representative sample of 14 645 household all over Ethiopia. 14070 women and 6033 men responded to this survey. From the respondents to this survey 32.6% belonged to the Oromo people, 31.3% belonged to the Amhara people and 6.8% belonged to the Tigrayan people.

When it comes to the religious affiliation the difference between the World Fact Book on one side and the 1994 census and the demographics and health survey on the other is even bigger. The CIA World fact book says there are 45%-50% Muslims, 35%-40% Ethiopian Orthodox, 12% animists (traditional) and 3%-8% others. The 1994 survey says there are a total of 61.6% Christians (50.6% Orthodox, 10.1% Protestant and 0.9% Catholic), 32.8% Muslims and 5.6% traditional. The survey says a total of 68.7% Christians (49.2% Orthodox, 18.3% Protestant and 1.1% Catholic), 28.8% Muslims and 2.4% others.

My point in listing this variations of the presumed percentage of ethnic groups and religious affiliation is to show how uncertain data from a poor country like Ethiopia is. It seams, however, that the CIA World Fact Book is way of in its estimates. I find this a little disturbing because I thought the Fact Book to be more accurate. The CIA World Fact Book have frequently been cited in papers I have read.

The infrastructure is poorly developed only 13.4% of the population have access to electricity and only 6.1% of the households are electricity customers. Tigray region have better electricity supply than most of Ethiopia. The road density in Tigray is in the vicinity of the national average. Tigray is a mountainous region where it is expensive to build roads.

The official language of the federal state is Amharic. The official language of the regions is decided by the respective region. The language of instruction in the primary school (grade 1 to 8) are decided by the region. After grate eight the language of instruction in schools is English. The enrolment rate is very low with little over half of the children in school age being enrolled.

The economy of Ethiopia is based on agriculture, which accounts for half of the GDP, 90% of exports and 80% of total employment. Coffee is the major export crop providing for 65%-75% of Ethiopia’s foreign exchange earnings. Ethiopia experience periodic droughts. In 1984-85 there were severe famine in Ethiopia caused by drought and political instability. Currently there are drought in the Horn of Africa, but this have not lead to a famine in Ethiopia yet. The rainy season is from mid-June until mid-September. Ethiopia was ranked by the UN to be the 170th of 177 countries measured by Human Development Index (HDI) in 2005. HDI is a measurement aspiring to measure the quality of life according to health, knowledge and wealth.