That dollar amount reflects a 6.8% increase from $2.9 billion 5 years earlier in 2017.
From 2020 to 2021, Ethiopia’s most recent export total represents a 21.7% acceleration from $2.5 billion.
Ethiopia’s 5 most valuable customers for buying its exported products are Somalia, United States of America, Germany, Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. Collectively, that subgroup of top importers accounted for 45.1% all money spent on Ethiopian exports in 2021.
Applying a continental lens, 40.7% of Ethiopia’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 27.4% were sold to importers in Europe. Ethiopia shipped another 19.1% worth of goods to Africa, with another 11.5% going to North America.
Smaller percentages arrived in Oceania (1.1%) mostly Australia and New Zealand, plus Latin America (0.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Ethiopia’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Ethiopia’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Ethiopian shipments by dollar value during 2021. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Ethiopian exports.
- Somalia: US$360.8 million (11.8% of total Ethiopian exports)
- United States: $330.2 million (10.8%)
- Germany: $243.9 million (8%)
- Netherlands: $229.3 million (7.5%)
- Saudi Arabia: $215.5 million (7%)
- United Arab Emirates: $189.8 million (6.2%)
- Belgium: $131 million (4.3%)
- Japan: $106.2 million (3.5%)
- Israel: $105.9 million (3.5%)
- Djibouti: $102.9 million (3.4%)
- India: $101.2 million (3.3%)
- South Korea: $85.7 million (2.8%)
- China: $84.5 million (2.8%)
- Vietnam: $67.5 million (2.2%)
- Italy: $61.1 million (2%)
By value, almost four-fifths (79%) of Ethiopian exports in 2021 were delivered to the above 15 trading partners.
The fastest-growing importers of products shipped from Ethiopia were India (up 101% from 2020), Germany (up 75.8%), Belgium (up 58%), South Korea (up 40.3%) and the United States of America (up 27.6%).
Three top customers posted declines in their purchases of Ethiopian exports namely mainland China (down -7.4% from 2020), Djibouti (down -5.5%) and Vietnam (down -3.8%).
Countries Causing Ethiopia’s Largest Trade Deficits
Overall Ethiopia incurred a -$12.2 billion trade deficit during 2021, expanding 5.5% from the -$11.6 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2020.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Ethiopia incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- China: -US$4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2021)
- India: -$2.3 billion
- United States of America: -$838.1 million
- Turkey: -$723.4 million
- Malaysia: -$614.9 million
- Ukraine: -$573.1 million
- Kuwait: -$505.3 million
- Morocco: -$363 million
- United Arab Emirates: -$323.5 million
- Japan: -$252.1 million
Among Ethiopia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Ethiopian deficits with Malaysia (up 157.9%), Ukraine (up 113.5%) and the United States of America (up 81.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2020 to 2021.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Ethiopia’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Ethiopia to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Countries Generating Ethiopia’s Best Trade Surpluses
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2021, Ethiopia incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- Somalia: US$360.4 million (country-specific trade surplus in 2021)
- Netherlands: $90.2 million
- Israel: $87.6 million
- Germany: $66.1 million
- Vietnam: $34.5 million
- Sudan: $31.9 million
- Yemen: $28.3 million
- Jordan: $22.8 million
- Hong Kong: $17.9 million
- Seychelles: $8 million
Ethiopia’s trade balance with Germany reversed -$104.6 million in red ink during 2020 to post a $66.1-million surplus for 2021. Similarly, Ethiopia transitioned from a deficit of -$2.1 million in 2020 to generate $17.9 million in black ink trading with Hong Kong during 2021.
Among Ethiopia’s other top trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Ethiopian surpluses with Seychelles (up 2,712%), Sudan (up 1,576%) and Jordan (up 33.9%) grew by the greatest percentages from 2020 to 2021.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Ethiopia’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Ethiopia to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Ethiopian Trading Partners
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)
See also Ethiopia’s Top 10 Exports, Ethiopia’s Top 10 Imports, China’s Top Trading Partners and India’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 11, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 11, 2022
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on July 11, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 11, 2022
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on July 11, 2022