Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports

Ethiopia’s top 10 exports


The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa, a peninsula in northeast Africa.

Ethiopia shipped US$2.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017, up by 10.5% since 2013. Year over year, that dollar amount also equals a 9.4% improvement in Ethiopian export sales from 2016 to 2017.

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. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

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 16.8% 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 105.4 million people, its total $2.9 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $27 for every resident in that country.

Ethiopia’s unemployment rate was forecast to be 16.8% as of October 2017 according to Trading Economics.

Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ethiopian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Ethiopia.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Ethiopia’s most valuable exported products are coffee followed by miscellaneous oil seeds and oleaginous fruits.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$963 million (33.6% of total exports)
  2. Vegetables: $538.4 million (18.8%)
  3. Oil seeds: $446.3 million (15.6%)
  4. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $221.9 million (7.8%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $125.7 million (4.4%)
  6. Meat: $97.1 million (3.4%)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $74.8 million (2.6%)
  8. Live animals: $61.9 million (2.2%)
  9. Electrical machinery, equipment: $56.2 million (2%)
  10. Footwear: $45.5 million (1.6%)

Ethiopia’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, representing 91.9% of the overall value of Ethiopian global shipments.

Electrical machinery and equipment was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 175.1% from 2016 to 2017.

The coffee, tea and spices category placed second via a 27.2% gain. Ethiopia’s exported coffee generated the bulk of these international sales.

Shipments of footwear from Ethiopia posted the third-fastest gain via a 22.5% improvement.

Two categories declined in value, namely Ethiopian exports of live animals (down -31.8%) and oil seeds (down -13.7%).


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 represents 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.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$958.3 million (Up by 27.2% since 2016)
  2. Vegetables: $463.5 million (Up by 5.2%)
  3. Oil seeds: $436.5 million (Down by -14.1%)
  4. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $219.4 million (Up by 3.2%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $109.4 million (Up by 0.3%)
  6. Meat: $96.4 million (Up by 3.5%)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $70.2 million (Up by 4.6%)
  8. Live animals: $53.1 million (Down by -36.5%)
  9. Cotton: $13.2 million (Up by 75.8%)
  10. Ores, slag, ash: $9.3 million (Up by 42.8%)

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 in 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.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$2.7 billion (Up by 1% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles : -$1.4 billion (Up by 1%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.2 billion (Down by -28.2%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: -$1.2 billion (Down by -14.4%)
  5. Iron, steel: -$799.2 million (Down by -10.4%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: -$631.4 million (Up by 14.5%)
  7. Cereals: -$613 million (Down by -36.1%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$569.4 million (Down by -28.8%)
  9. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$537 million (Up by 5.2%)
  10. Pharmaceuticals: -$534.5 million (Down by -18.9%)

Ethiopia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category. The loss-leader under that 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)
  • Marathon Motors Engineering (automobiles)
  • Yousran International (sesame seeds, spice seeds, edible oils)
  • Yebbo Communication Network (software, websites)
  • Ethio Telecom (mobile, fixed line, broadband services)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of Ethiopian exporters representing diverse industries during 2014:

  • Haicof Limited (coffee)
  • Packtra (polyesters, lamps)
  • Max Export (polypropylene)
  • A Oil Seeds and Cereals Export (beans including kidney beans)
  • Harar Brewery Share (malt beer)

Ethiopia’s capital city is Addis Ababa.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Ethiopia’s Top Trading Partners, Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports and Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 9, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 9, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 9, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 9, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ethiopia. Accessed on February 9, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 9, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 9, 2018