Ethiopia, or People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, a country in eastern Africa. Formerly it was known as Abyssinia. Ethiopia lies inland from the Horn of Africa and is bordered by Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and Eritrea. The country's area is 423,517 square miles (1,096,900 km2); Maximum dimensions are about 900 miles (1,450 km) north-south and about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east-west.

Facts in brief about Ethiopia
Capital: Addis Ababa.
Official language: Amharic.
Official name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Area: 426,373 mi2 (1,104,300 km2). Greatest distances―north-south, 800 mi (1,290 km); east-west, 1,035 mi (1,666 km).
Elevation:Highest―Ras Dashen, 15,158 ft (4,620 m) above sea level. Lowest―Denakil Depression, 381 ft (116 m) below sea level.
Population:Current estimate―78,326,000; density, 184 per mi2 (71 per km2); distribution, 84 percent rural, 16 percent urban. 1994 census―53,477,265.
Chief products:Agriculture―coffee, corn, khat, oilseeds, sorghum, sugar cane, teff, wheat. Manufacturing―cement, processed food, shoes, textiles.
National anthem: "Whedefit Gesgeshi Woude Henate Ethiopia" ("March Forward, Dear Mother Ethiopia, Bloom and Flourish").
Flag: The national flag of Ethiopia, flown by the people, consists of three horizontal stripes-green, yellow, and red (top to bottom). The state flag used by the government, is the same, but the Ethiopian coat of arms appears in the center.
Money:Basic unit―birr. One hundred cents equal one birr.
Physical Geography
EthiopiaEthiopia is a country in northeastern Africa.

Most of Ethiopia consists of a high, eroded plateau crossed by mountains and cut by deep river valleys. The Great Rift Valley of Africa cuts through the plateau diagonally southwest-northeast, widening into the Denakil Desert in the northeast. Several lakes occupy part of the valley's floor in southern Ethiopia. Desertlike plains border the plateau to the east and southeast. Northern Ethiopia contains both the country's highest peak, Ras Dashan (15,158 feet, or 4,620 m), and the lowest point381 feet (116 m) below sea level in the Denakil Desert.

Nearly all the rivers drain either northward to the Mediterranean as part of the Nile system or southward to the Indian Ocean. Lake Tana, in the western highlands, is the source of the Blue Nile, called the Abay in Ethiopia.

There are several climatic zones, based primarily on differences in elevation. Below 5,000 feet (1,500 m) the climate is hot and dry the year round. The zone between 5,000 and 8,000 feet (1,500 and 2,400 m) has a more temperate, humid climate. This is the most densely populated and agriculturally productive part of Ethiopia. Average temperatures here are 60 to 70 F. (16 to 21 C.), and rainfall totals some 25 to 70 inches (635 to 1,780 mm) annually. Above 8,000 feet the climate is damp and cool.


During 197490 Ethiopia had a centrally planned economy based on socialist principles. In 1990 the government established programs designed to encourage the development of a mixed economy based partly on socialist principles and partly on private enterprise.

Agriculture engages about 85 per cent of the country's workers. Most farmers live at the subsistence level; farms are small and techniques and implements are usually primitive. Coffee is the main cash crop and is an important export. Food crops include barley, corn, millet, sorghum, teff (a cereal grass), and wheat. Droughts often occur, causing widespread starvation. Cattle, sheep, and goats are raised for food as well as for skins and hides.

About 10 per cent of Ethiopian workers are employed in service industries, such as government, banking, insurance, and tourism. About 5 per cent have manufacturing jobs. The production of textiles is the main manufacturing activity. Also important is the manufacture of cement, processed foods, footwear, and cigarettes. Mining is of little significance. Small amounts of gold, platinum, and salt are produced.

Ethiopia's transport network is poorly developed, a major reason for the country's slow economic progress. Less than 15 per cent of the road system is paved. A railway links Addis Ababa, the capital, with the port of Djibouti. Ethiopia's main international airport is at Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia's basic currency unit is the birr.

The People

Ethiopia's largest cities are Addis Ababa, the capital; Dire Dawa; and Gondar.

The population is made up of a vast variety of peoples who are of mixed white and black ancestry. The Amhara, who speak a Semitic tongue, live in central Ethiopia. Closely related to the Amhara and also speaking a Semitic language are the Tigre, who live in the north. The Amhara-Tigre make up one-third of the population and are politically dominant. Peoples speaking Cushitic languages include the Galla (Oromo), who live in the southwest and make up nearly 40 per cent of the population, and the Somalis of southeastern Ethiopia. In all, more than 90 languages and dialects are used.

About 40 per cent of the population is Christian; the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is of early Coptic origin. Muslims make up about 45 per cent of the population. There is also a small group of Jewish Ethiopians called the Falasha or Beta Israel.

Primary school begins at age seven and lasts for six years; secondary school also lasts six years. Many parts of the country lack schools and there is widespread illiteracy. The leading institution of higher learning is the University of Addis Ababa.


Under the constitution of 1995, Ethiopia is a federal republic. The executive branch is headed by a president (head of state), who names the prime minister (head of government) and cabinet. The president is elected for a five-year term. The Federal Parliamentary Assembly, whose members serve five-year terms, is the legislature. Members of its upper house, the Council of the Federation, are indirectly elected by regional councils; members of its lower house, the Council of Peoples Representatives, are directly elected. The country is divided into nine states.