The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is located on the Horn of Africa, a peninsula in Northeast Africa. Ethiopia shipped an estimated US$2.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018, down by -14% since 2014. Year over year, that dollar amount represents a -10.5% drop in Ethiopian export sales from 2017 to 2018.
In addition, Ethiopia furnished an estimated $4.9 billion worth of international services during 2018 encompassing about $3.3 billion from transport-related and $959.2 million for travel-related services.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Ethiopia’s exported goods plus services represent 8.1% of total Ethiopian economic output or Gross Domestic Product estimated for 2017. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
The latest available country-specific data for 2017 shows that 68.5% of products exported from Ethiopia were bought by importers in: China (10.1% of the global total), Somalia (8.5%), United States (7.9%), Saudi Arabia (7.2%), Germany (6.8%), Netherlands (6.6%), United Arab Emirates (4.5%), Switzerland (3.9%), Japan (3.5%), Djibouti (3.4%), Belgium (3.3%) and Israel (2.8%).
On a per-continent basis, $1.2 billion or 42.7% of Ethiopian exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 29.1% were sold to European nations. Ethiopia shipped another 18.7% worth of goods to fellow African nations, with 8.5% of Ethiopia’s shipments going to customers in North America.
Given Ethiopia’s population of 108.4 million people, its total $2.6 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $25 for every resident in the northeast African nation.
Ethiopia’s unemployment rate was forecasted to be 19.3% at September 2019 per Trading Economics.
Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ethiopian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Ethiopia.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$867.6 million (33.9% of total exports)
- Oil seeds: $437.7 million (17.1%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $265.6 million (10.4%)
- Vegetables: $146.2 million (5.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $110.6 million (4.3%)
- Meat: $106.7 million (4.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $102.6 million (4%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $85.9 million (3.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: $76 million (3%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $70.2 million (2.7%)
Ethiopia’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, representing 88.6% of the overall value of Ethiopian global shipments.
Machinery including computers was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 29,091% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was unknitted and non-crocheted clothing or accessories thanks to a 158.7% improvement.
Ethiopia’s shipments of knitted or crocheted clothing or accessories posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 150.6%.
The leading decliner among Ethiopia’s top 10 export categories was vegetables via its -72.9% drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, coffee represents Ethiopia’s most valuable exported product at 33.5% of the country’s total. In second place were oil seeds (14.7%) trailed by fresh or dried flowers for bouquets or ornamental purposes (9%), dried shelled vegetables (5.2%), sheep or goat meat (3.7%), gold (2.5%), turbo-jets (2.1%), leather footwear (1.8%), soya beans (1.6%) then miscellaneous live plants (1.3%).
The following types of Ethiopian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$860.2 million (Down by -10.2% since 2017)
- Oil seeds: $428.9 million (Down by -1.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $262.7 million (Up by 19.8%)
- Vegetables: $130.8 million (Down by -71.8%)
- Meat: $101.3 million (Up by 5.1%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $80.2 million (Up by 14.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $17.3 million (Up by 86.4%)
- Footwear: $10.9 million (Reversing a -$67.4 million deficit)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $9.4 million (Reversing a -$78 million deficit)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.5 million (Reversing a -$8.2 million deficit)
Ethiopia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of coffee. In turn, these cashflows indicate Ethiopia’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices product category.
Overall Ethiopia incurred an -$11.8 billion trade deficit during 2017, resulting from a -14.2% drop from the -$13.8 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2016.
Below are exports from Ethiopia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Ethiopia’s goods trail its importer spending on foreign products.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -US$1.9 billion (Up by 474.2% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.5 billion (Down by -43.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$785.5 million (Down by -36.7%)
- Iron, steel: -$451.8 million (Down by -43.5%)
- Vehicles: -$450.3 million (Down by -68%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$406.2 million (Down by -24%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$353.7 million (Up by 90.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$336.3 million (Down by -46.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$236.8 million (Down by -58.4%)
- Cereals: -$216.0 million (Down by -64.8%)
Ethiopia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under aircraft and spacecraft as well as the machinery including computers category. The loss-leader under the latter category is turbo-jets, a capital-intensive and highly technical commodity that Ethiopia finds challenging to manufacture.
Ethiopian Export Companies
Given that Ethiopia is an emerging economy, it should come as no surprise that not one Ethiopian corporation appears on the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Wikipedia does document some Ethiopian export companies. Selected examples are shown below:
- Ambo Mineral Water (bottled mineral water)
- Ethio Telecom (mobile, fixed line, broadband services)
- Marathon Motors Engineering (automobiles)
- Yebbo Communication Network (software, websites)
- Yousran International (sesame seeds, spice seeds, edible oils)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of Ethiopian exporters representing diverse industries:
- A Oil Seeds and Cereals Export (beans including kidney beans)
- Haicof Limited (coffee)
- Harar Brewery Share (malt beer)
- Max Export (polypropylene)
- Packtra (polyesters, lamps)
Ethiopia’s capital city is Addis Ababa.
See also Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports and Ethiopia’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 11, 2019
Forbes, Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 11, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 11, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 11, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 11, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ethiopia. Accessed on September 11, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on September 11, 2019