From a continental perspective, two-thirds (66.9%) of Ethiopia’s total imports by value in 2017 were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 17% of import purchases by Ethiopia while 8.7% worth of goods originated from North America. At 6%, a smaller percentage came from fellow African exporters with just 1.3% sent from Latin America (excluding Mexico) but including the Caribbean.
Given Ethiopia’s population of 95.6 million people, its total $8.4 billion in 2019 imports translates to roughly $90 in yearly product demand from every person in the northeast African country.
Ethiopia’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ethiopia’s import purchases during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Ethiopia.
- Machinery including computers: US$1.6 billion (19.3% of total imports)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $1.5 billion (18%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1 billion (12.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $455.3 million (5.4%)
- Iron, steel: $391.6 million (4.7%)
- Vehicles: $387.5 million (4.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $264.6 million (3.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $210.1 million (2.5%)
- Cereals: $195.2 million (2.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $184.6 million (2.2%)
Ethiopia’s top 10 imports accounted for over two-thirds (71.3%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Electrical machinery and equipment was the fastest-growing top category from 2018 to 2019 via a 24.7% gain. In second place was optical, technical or medical apparatus (up 13.5%) trailed by pharmaceuticals (up 8.9%).
Leading the decliners were plastics including articles made from plastic (down -23.1%).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under other virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
In 2019, Ethiopian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Turbo-jets: US$608.6 million (up 44.5% from 2018)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $55.7 million (down -37.1%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $52.8 million (up 57.7%)
- Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines: $50.9 million (up 2.7%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $47.7 million (up 8.9%)
- Rubber/plastic article making machines: $45.4 million (up 6.3%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $45.1 million (down -24.7%)
- Industrial preparation machinery: $41.7 million (down -61.5%)
- Computers, optical readers: $40.8 million (down -34.4%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $39.1 million (up 2.5%)
Among these import subcategories, Ethiopian purchases of refrigerators and freezers (up 57.7%), turbo-jets (up 44.5%) then miscellaneous machinery (up 8.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of machinery-related imports among Ethiopian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Ethiopian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of aircraft and spacecraft.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: US$716.2 million (up 8.6% from 2018)
- Aircraft parts: $49.8 million (down -65.5%)
- Aircraft launch gear, ground fly trainer: $4.9 million (down -32.8%)
- Parachutes, accessories: $9,000 (down -93.4%)
Among these import subcategories, only Ethiopian purchases of aircraft and spacecraft (up 8.6%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of aircraft-related imports among Ethiopian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Ethiopian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electrical goods including consumer electronics.
- Filament/discharge lamps: US$267.1 million (up 6107.9% from 2018)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: $177 million (down -9.4%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $73.1 million (down -17.8%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $62.2 million (down -23.1%)
- Electric generating sets, converters: $59.3 million (down -15.3%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $58.2 million (down -4.3%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $43.2 million (up 2.8%)
- Electric ignition/start equipment: $33.7 million (up 125.7%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $30 million (up 62%)
- Electric storage batteries: $22.3 million (up 23.6%)
Among these import subcategories, Ethiopian purchases of filament or discharge lamps (up 6,108%), electric ignition or start equipment (up 125.7%) then lower-voltage switches or fuses (up 62%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of electronics-related imports among Ethiopian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Ethiopian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of pharmaceuticals.
- Medication mixes in dosage: US$379.3 million (up 19% from 2018)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): $59.4 million (down -24.8%)
- Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods: $11.2 million (down -15.3%)
- Packaged dressings: $4.5 million (up 73.3%)
- Medication mixes not in dosage: $824,000 (down -82.1%)
- Dried organs, heparin: $50,000 (up 4,900%)
Among these import subcategories, Ethiopian purchases of dried organs and heparin (up 4,900%), packaged dressings (up 73.3%) then medication mixes in dosage (up 19%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of pharmaceuticals-related imports among Ethiopian businesses and consumers.
See also Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. 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