The latest available country-specific data from 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%).
From a continental perspective, 42.7% of Ethiopia’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 29.1% were sold to importers in Europe. Ethiopia shipped another 18.7% worth of goods to fellow African nations. Smaller percentages went to North America (8.5%), Oceania led by Australia (0.9%), and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.1%).
Given Ethiopia’s population of 95.6 million people, its total $2.6 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $30 for every resident in the northeast African nation.
Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ethiopian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Ethiopia.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$843.6 million (32.6% of total exports)
- Oil seeds: $483.5 million (18.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $276 million (10.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $168.1 million (6.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $139.3 million (5.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $131.5 million (5.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $79.9 million (3.1%)
- Vegetables: $69.3 million (2.7%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $69.2 million (2.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $48.9 million (1.9%)
Ethiopia’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, representing 89.2% of the overall value of Ethiopian global shipments.
Unknitted and non-crocheted clothing or accessories was the fastest-grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 96.6% since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was electric machinery and equipment thanks to an 87.5% improvement. Ethiopia’s shipments of machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 53.7%.
The leading decliner among Ethiopia’s top 10 export categories was vegetables via its -53.1% annual drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, coffee represents Ethiopia’s most valuable exported product at 32.3% of the country’s total. In second place were oil seeds (13.6%) trailed by fresh or dried flowers for bouquets or ornamental purposes (9.3%), turbo-jets (3.9%), gold (2.8%), unroasted ground nuts (2.5%), unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers (2.2%), dried shelled vegetables (also 2.2%), soya beans (2.1%) then knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (1.5%).
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$840 million (Down by -3% since 2018)
- Oil seeds: $472.1 million (Up by 7.9%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $274.5 million (Up by 1.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $149.4 million (Up by 765.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $78.2 million (Reversing a -$46.7 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $62.5 million (Down by -22.1%)
- Vegetables: $57.5 million (Down by -56.6%)
- Meat: $28.4 million (Down by -72.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $10.5 million (Down by -39.3%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $6.3 million (Up by 39%)
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 -$5.8 billion trade deficit during 2019, resulting from an -18.1% drop from the -$7.1 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2018.
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$1.5 billion (Down by -20.7% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.48 billion (Down by -2.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$964.7 million (Up by 22.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$454.5 million (Up by 9.1%)
- Iron, steel: -$391.6 million (Down by -13.7%)
- Vehicles: -$386.7 million (Down by -14.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$259.2 million (Down by -23.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$206.9 million (Up by 13.5%)
- Cereals: -$192.5 million (Down by -10.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$184.4 million (Down by -22.2%)
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)
In macroeconomic terms, Ethiopia’s total exported goods represent 1.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($240.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 1.8% for 2019. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Ethiopia’s total economic performance albeit based on relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Egypt’s average unemployment rate was 19.5% for 2019 up from 19.1% one year earlier, as estimated by Trading Economics.
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 June 15, 2020
Forbes, Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 15, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 15, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 15, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 15, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ethiopia. Accessed on June 15, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on June 15, 2020