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$2.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 61.7% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -3% from 2015 to 2016.

Ethiopia’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, representing 97.2% of the overall value of Ethiopian global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Ethiopia’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $195.78 billion as of October 2017. Therefore, exports account for about 1.3% of total Ethiopian economic output.

On a per-continent basis, $1.1 billion or 43.7% of Ethiopian exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 28.4% were sold to European nations. Ethiopia shipped another 17.5% worth of goods to other African nations, with 7.4% going to North America.

Given Ethiopia’s population of 102.4 million people, its total $2.6 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $26 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 2016. 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 number one exported product is coffee followed by miscellaneous oil seeds and oleaginous fruits.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$757.3 million (28.9% of total exports)
  2. Vegetables: $527 million (20.1%)
  3. Oil seeds: $516.9 million (19.8%)
  4. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $216.2 million (8.3%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $117.6 million (4.5%)
  6. Meat: $93.6 million (3.6%)
  7. Live animals: $90.7 million (3.5%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $67.6 million (2.6%)
  9. Footwear: $37.1 million (1.4%)
  10. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $32 million (1.2%)

Knit or crochet clothing and accessories were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 1,690% over the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was footwear which was appreciated by 461.5%.

Ethiopia’s exported meat posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 259.6%.

The slowest gainer among the top 10 Ethiopian exports was gems and precious metals via its 26.4 increase. That category was weighted down by Ethiopia’s sluggish international sales of gold.


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 is 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$753.6 million (Down by -17% since 2009)
  2. Oil seeds: $508.1 million (Up by 5.3%)
  3. Vegetables: $440.6 million (Down by -1.2%)
  4. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $212.6 million (Up by 20.2%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $109.1 million (Down by -38.2%)
  6. Meat: $93.1 million (Up by 28.6%)
  7. Live animals: $83.6 million (Down by -52.2%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $67.1 million (Down by -20.4%)
  9. Cotton: $7.5 million (Down by -61.3%)
  10. Ores, slag, ash: $6.5 million (Down by -56.4%)

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 a -$13.8 billion trade deficit during 2016 up by 54.7% from -$8.9 billion for 2009.

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$2.6 billion (Up by 83.4% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.7 billion (Up by 85.9%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: -$1.4 billion (Down by -39.9%)
  4. Vehicles: -$1.4 billion (Up by 31.1%)
  5. Cereals: -$1 billion (Up by 134.8%)
  6. Iron, steel: -$892.1 million (Up by 24%)
  7. Articles of iron or steel: -$799.8 million (Up by 107.9%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$659.2 million (Up by 54.6%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: -$551.4 million (Up by 55.3%)
  10. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$510.2 million (Up by 20.1%)

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 commodity that Ethiopia is ill-equipped 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 for 2015.

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.

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on October 25, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on October 25, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on October 25, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 25, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ethiopia. Accessed on October 25, 2017

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 25, 2017

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on October 25, 2017