Ethiopia is one of the last countries in Africa allowing its national telco, Ethio Telecom, a monopoly on all telecom services including fixed, mobile, internet and data communications. This monopolistic control has stifled innovation, restricted network expansion and limited the scope of services on offer. A management contract with Orange Group had dramatically improved performance for Ethio Telecom though there remain weaknesses in quality of service. The country’s broadband market is also set to develop further following massive increases in international bandwidth, improvements in national fibre backbone infrastructure and the growing availability of mobile broadband services via 3G and LTE networks.
Ethiopia has the lowest level of income-inequality in Africa and one of the lowest in the world, with a Gini coefficient comparable to that of the Scandinavian countries. Yet despite progress toward eliminating extreme poverty, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, due both to rapid population growth and a low starting base. Changes in rainfall associated with world-wide weather patterns resulted in the worst drought in thirty years in 2015/2016, creating food insecurity for millions of Ethiopians.
The state is heavily engaged in the economy. Ongoing infrastructure projects include power production and distribution, roads, rails, airports and industrial parks. Key sectors are state-owned, including telecommunications, banking and insurance, and power distribution. Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the state owns all land and provides long-term leases to tenants. Title rights in urban areas, particularly Addis Ababa, are poorly regulated, and subject to corruption.
Ethiopia’s foreign exchange earnings are led by the services sector – primarily the state-run Ethiopian Airlines – followed by exports of several commodities. While coffee remains the largest foreign exchange earner, Ethiopia is diversifying exports, and commodities such as gold, sesame, khat, livestock and horticulture products are becoming increasingly important. Manufacturing represented less than 8% of total exports in 2016, but manufacturing exports should increase due to a growing international presence. The banking, insurance, telecommunications, and micro-credit industries are restricted to domestic investors.
In the fall of 2015, the government finalized and published the current 2016-2020 five-year plan, known as the Growth and Transformation Plan II, which emphasizes developing manufacturing in sectors where Ethiopia has a comparative advantage, such as textiles and garments, leather goods, and processed agricultural products. To support industrialization, Ethiopia plans to increase installed power generation capacity by 8,320 MW, up from a capacity of 2,000 MW, by building three more major dams and expanding to other sources of renewable energy