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Brief History

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation in Africa. It is widely considered one of the oldest human inhabited areas, if not the oldest according to some scientific findings. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world, where the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-1941. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile Selassie (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A peace treaty was made in 2000 after a border war with Eritrea. The president of Ethiopia is Girma Woldegiorgis (since 8 October 2001).

Geography

Ethiopia, capital Addis Ababa, is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa (eastern Africa), west of Somalia. It covers an area of 1,104,300 square kilometers. It shares land borders with the Eritrea in the north, Sudan in the west, Djibouti and Somalia in the east, and Kenya in the south. Ethiopia’s climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. It is often ironically referred to as the "water tower" of Eastern Africa because of the many (14 major) rivers that pour off the high tableland. Some natural resources that can be found in Ethiopia include small reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, and hydropower.

People

Ethiopia has a population of 88,013,491. There are more than 80 different ethnic groups within the country. Some of these have as few as 10,000 members, such as the Oromo, Amhara, Tigray and Somali that make up three-quarters of the population, and other groups as Guragie, Sidama, Welaita, etc… The official language is Amharic, along with other spoken languages such as Oromigna, Tigrigna and English which is the major foreign language taught in school. The literacy rate is 42.7%. According to the 2007 National Census, Christians make up 62.8% of the country's population, Muslims 33.9%, practitioners of traditional faiths 2.6%, and other religions 0.6%. Ethiopia has its own alphabet, called Ge'ez or Ethiopic, and calendar.

Government

The government of Ethiopia is subject to a federal republic system. Its legal system is based on civil law and currently is transitional mix of national and regional courts. It has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. Ethiopia’s chief of state is President Girma Woldegiorgis (since 8 October 2001), and its head of government is Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (since August 1995). Its official currency is the Birr, where 13.59 birrs are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Ethiopia's economy has undergone major reforms since May 1991, when a market-oriented government came to power. Droughts, civil war, and cross-border conflicts have devastated the economy as much as socialist-style totalitarianism. The government continues to institute economic reforms designed to liberalize the economy and increase the role of private capital.Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for about 45% of GDP, 85% of total employment, and 80% of the exports. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Among the several agricultural export commodities, coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350 million in 2006, forming the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. Ethiopia is also Africa's second biggest maize producer. Principle crops include sugarcanes, oilseeds, beans, potatoes, vegetables, etc…

Ethiopia is known to be the 10th largest producer of livestock in the world. Other main export commodities are khat, gold, leather products, and oilseeds. Recent development of the floriculture sector means Ethiopia is poised to become one of the top flower and plant exporters in the world.Knowing that it is famour for its large water resources, most regard the latte as Ethiopia’s "white oil" and its coffee resources as "black gold".

The downstream oil industry accounts for a small amount of the country's imports. The mining industry in Ethiopia is also a significant sector with development potential. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority (EELPA).

To break the cycle of famine, the government has promoted extension services and fertilizers in the hope that farmers could realize their potential and poverty would be reduced, with 38.7% of the population living below the poverty line (2005-2006), and whose GDP per capita was US$900 (2009).

The country suffered a terrible drought in 2002 resulting in a sharp drop in cereal production and significant increases in food prices. The effects on the economy were severe and the country had to rely on food aid from international donors. The current levels of agricultural production are almost back to normal and food levels are satisfactory.

Ethiopia has 681 km of railway that mainly consists of the Addis Ababa – Djibouti Railway, which is under joint control of both countries, but negotiations are underway to privatize this transport utility. Between 1997 and 2002 the Ethiopian government began a sustained effort to improve its infrastructure of roads. Ethiopia has an inflation rate of 11% (2009) and its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US$281.76 (2010).


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