Underdevelopment: Ethiopia


The current research paper is devoted to Ethiopia and its socio-economic situation. This country is situated in Africa and is considered one of the poorest states in the world. Ethiopia has a great number of economic and social problems. Although it is an agrarian country and the whole economy is mainly based on this sector, local people often receive help in the form of food from other countries. It is associated with frequent droughts and a poorly developed way of land handling. This paper incorporates different credible sources to support its arguments. Ethiopia is chosen as a central economy, because despite numerous social and economic challenges, the government of the country tries to improve the situation and wants to make the living conditions of the local population better.

Africa is an important part of the world community. Nowadays, African states draw a rather mixed picture. They have political, economic, ethnic, and religious differences at the international level. In addition, various social layers, groups, organizations, and lifestyles at the same time co-exist and oppose in each African country. The world scientific community has no common view on the state of the African continent and its role in the world. Economists always emphasize on its neediness and underdevelopment, thus implying the simplicity of its economic structures. However, ethnologists and sociologists mark a distinctive character and a fantastic mosaic of African societies in all their manifestations. Ethiopia is one of the brightest and the most distinctive African states regarding its cultural development. Nonetheless, it is considered one of the poorest and the most underdeveloped countries in the world. The purpose of the research paper is to study both social and economic conditions of the country, examine its relations with world organizations, and identify the main social problems in Ethiopia.

A Social and Economic Condition of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a developing African country, which until recently has worked on building socialism. According to data of The World Bank (n. d.), this country with a population of about 99 million people and a gross national income per capita of about $60 billion is one of the poorest in the world. Moreover, despite the fact that from 2005 to 2014, its growth was significantly higher than the average in the region and the world, it remained an underdeveloped county. A significant part of its population lives below the absolute poverty line. It was more than 29% of the population in 2010 (The World Bank, n. d.). Today, the average annual income per capita is less than $100. In the list of countries compared in terms of gross national product per capita from the World Bank, Ethiopia occupies the 175th place (The World Bank, n. d.). As for the Human Development Index, which includes the level of income, crime, education, and life expectancy, Ethiopia occupies 174th place among 187 world countries (UNDP, 2015). More than half of students do not graduate from junior classes. Thus, the level of economy is almost at zero in the country.

Despite considerable efforts, numerous structural problems remain unresolved. They include the negative impact of continuous droughts on the agriculture of the country, the rapid growth of the population and the related impact on economic growth, as well as a progressive erosion of the soil and the lack of natural resources (Milkias, 2011). The rapid population growth contributes to poverty, although its level corresponds to the average value among other African countries. However, it is expected that in 2050, Ethiopia will enter the top ten states with the highest population in the world (Milkias, 2011). It is evident that a social and economic condition of the country is not satisfactory.

The economy of Ethiopia highly depends on the level of agriculture in the country. It provides a great amount of employment and produces the most part of GDP of the country. In the book Food and Agriculture in Ethiopia, it is noted that “Ethiopia’s crop agriculture is complex involving substantial variation in crops grown across the country’s different regions and ecologies” (Dorosh & Rashid, 2013). There are all favorable conditions, such as fertile soil, abundant rainfall, and mild climate, to develop the agricultural sector. Nevertheless, droughts and erosion of the soil are frequent occurrences. These conditions often prevent employees from gathering a good harvest. Animal husbandry and farming are considered the most important spheres of agriculture in the country. It should be noted that practically half of the country’s territory is suitable to be used for the development of agriculture. Ethiopia specializes in cultivation of corn, wheat, millet, sorghum, grain crops, coffee, sugarcane, cotton, oilseeds, vegetables, and fruit. Coffee is considered the main export crop. The country has the largest livestock in Africa (Loulseged & Denekew, 2011).

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Livestock breeding is nomadic in nature. In order to ensure an efficient farming, a land reform was conducted and different peasant associations were created. They were empowered to deal with all issues related to land. However, the use of hired labor is prohibited. Farmers are given the right to set the minimum guaranteed prices for agricultural products. Besides, there is a public ownership of land. In general, the agricultural sector supports the natural form. Most population is directly or indirectly linked to the production of agricultural products. Improvement of living conditions is dependent on the increase of agricultural productivity. In turn, it requires the development of irrigation associated with a high probability of drought and a greater use of fertilizers. Consequences from the drought in Ethiopia are rather heavy, because the government is deprived of the profit and agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the population. The recent drought in 2011 caused starvation of the population (Oqubay, 2015). Because of numerous land problems, a great part of the country’s population needs food aid every year. Water resources of the country are rather poorly used. Less than 4% of all cultivated lands are irrigated (Milkias, 2011). In the book Ethiopia, it is written, “Ethiopia has a lot of potential if it is able to harness what its rivers offer” (Milkias, 2011, p. 6). The country practically does not use machinery for harvesting and continues to use exclusively cattle. It is considered a great barrier on the way to further development of the agricultural sector of the country.

Industry of the state is poorly developed. Mining and manufacturing are the main industrial sectors (Oqubay, 2015). The country mainly supports mining of coal, iron ore, and gold. Despite the fact, that in Ethiopia there are possible deposits of oil and natural gas, new fields development and mining of other minerals are not occurring. The expansion of the manufacturing industry depends on the attraction of foreign investment. Nowadays, the state operates mainly in the food industry, textiles, and construction materials. There are enterprises operating in chemical industry and metal processing. However, these areas are not highly developed. The structure of GDP by economic sectors consists of 48% for agriculture, 10% for industry, and 42% for the service sector (Oqubay, 2015). Ethiopia has a negative trade balance. Import volume is five times higher than the volume of export. The major goods for import include coffee, food, leather, and cotton. Import partners are Italy, China, Saudi Arabia, the USA, and India. Export partners are Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, the Netherlands, Italy, the USA, and China (Oqubay, 2015). Because of the fact that a great part of the population lives under the poverty line, Ethiopia is the recipient of economic assistance.

It is significant to note that civil liberties in the country are at a low level. According to the freedom of press comparison list, Ethiopia is located in line with Saudi Arabia and Russia, occupying the 180th place (Oqubay, 2015). According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Ethiopia is on the 110th place in the world ranking (Oqubay, 2015). It is evident that these indexes are extremely low and much afford has to be made to improve them. The population of the country has problems accessing the Internet. Among other African states, Ethiopia occupies the last position according to the Internet access (Fig. 1). In the article called “Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency, Internet Blocked,” it is stated that after a series of large-scale protests, the Ethiopian government has decided to turn off the Internet in the country (Associated Press, 2016). This decision was explained by the fact that all protests in Ethiopia were organized and controlled via the Internet. The country has only one mobile phone network. Thus, it is easy to control the access to the Internet. In some regions, it is completely unavailable while in others, the access is limited to only certain web sites. Internet access is a human right and thus, it is another example of the human rights violations in Ethiopia.

The levels of education and health are extremely low. According to the Ministry of Health Ethiopia, more than 4.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV. Furthermore, thousands of people die of AIDS every year (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). Ethiopia ranks the fourth among other countries of the world in the number of infectious diseases (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). Education is also a problem, as many people are illiterate.

Despite numerous difficulties, the government of the country makes necessary efforts to improve the situation. In the book, Made in Africa, the author affirmed, “the country has made spectacular leaps on multiple development fronts in recent years” (Oqubay, 2015, p. 1). The author notes that for more than 10 years, the rate of economic growth of Ethiopia comprises about 10%. The government tries to develop energy and other infrastructure projects. In recent years, the country’s government spends much on infrastructure and transport communication. In 2010, the Ethiopian government adopted a plan of growth and transformation (Oqubay, 2015). This program was designed to last for five years. Leaders of the country planned to spend money on the reorientation of the economy, including the extraction of mineral resources, such as precious stones, gold, hydrocarbons, and potassium (Oqubay, 2015). Previously, the development was based only on agriculture. These days, Ethiopia is among the first countries in Africa according to its development level (Fig. 2). In such a way, the government of Ethiopia is intended to improve the country’s conditions both economical and social.

The Relations with the Organizations

Despite the economic backwardness, Ethiopia is a member of many international organizations. Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations. For a long time, the country was an extremely important advocate of the peace process and regional cooperation in the African continent. In addition, Ethiopia became a venue of the African Conference in 1963 (Milkias, 2011). These days, the country remains a member of the Organization of African Unity (Milkias, 2011). Ethiopia is also a member of the IMF, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the African Development Bank, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the African Union, and others (Milkias, 2011). The government of the country highly values the international relation of Ethiopia with different international organizations.

The state regularly receives help from various unions and countries. This assistance consists of food or money. The government of the state regularly receives money aimed to fight drought from the IMF (Milkias, 2011). This help usually includes only a few percent of GDP. Recently, the United Kingdom also contributed 30 million pounds for the fight against hunger (Milkias, 2011). Traditionally, the European Union is one of the main foreign suppliers of Ethiopia. The Lomé Convention was the basis for this relationship for a long time, according to which Ethiopia among other African countries received preferences in trade with the countries of the European Union. The EU policy with regard to Ethiopia is aimed at stimulating conduction of reforms and development programs in the country. The majority of financial assistance of the European Union currently goes to Ethiopia in the form of grants. The EU promotes agricultural and transport reforms in Ethiopia, as well as the development of the private sector. Thus, these relations are essential for the country.

The United States of America has always been the most important political parner for Ethiopia. In the early 1950s, the United States became the main ally and a major source of financial assistance to Ethiopia (Milkias, 2011). In exchange for the military aid that helped form an army, the United States acquired the right to build a big air base in Ethiopia (Milkias, 2011). Current relations of Ethiopia and the United States are based on the recognition of the economic power and a leading role played by the United States in the world and in the country. The United States has a decisive influence on the processes of globalization, as well as on the maintenance of peace and stability around the world and in Ethiopia. Sufficiently large Ethiopian Diaspora is located in the United States (Milkias, 2011). Therefore, the Ethiopian government hopes that bilateral cooperation with the United States will help stimulate investment of the Diaspora in the capital of Ethiopian economy (Milkias, 2011). Ethiopia aims to be an executive of US efforts to maintain stability and peace in the region.

One of the most urgent problems in Ethiopia is a problem of refugees. The country frequently becomes a transit point for refugees who want to go to Europe. Thus, the United Kingdom proposed to create about 100 thousand jobs in Ethiopia to help the state deal with a great number of refugees. Abdi Dahir (2016) writes, “the new provision will create jobs for both Ethiopians and the more than 743,000 registered refugees living in the country”. For this purpose, several industrial parks will be built in Ethiopia. Moreover, approximately $1 billion will be allocated to complete the plan (Dahir, 2016). In turn, the government of the country agrees to issue permission for work for 30 thousand refugees (Dahir, 2016). This plan will be a great benefit for both Ethiopia and the refugees.

In addition, the World Bank provided Ethiopia with $40 million on the development of renewable energy projects in the private sector (Oqubay, 2015). It is associated with the fact that Ethiopia has a high potential for geothermal energy. Nevertheless, high costs and the need for skilled workers are the main obstacles in the development of geothermal energy. Money provided by the World Bank covered the costs of the early studies and drilling (Oqubay, 2015). The bank also wants to attract private investors to the development of geothermal projects and building of power plants in Ethiopia. This project will bring numerous advantages for Ethiopia, including attraction of new workforce and the improvement of economic condition of the country.

These days, Ethiopia is greatly dependent on China. It invested about $50 billion in African countries (Malancha, 2016). Thus, China became the main initiator in the construction of new infrastructural objects in the region. In turn, Ethiopia gives the land to Chinese companies (Malancha, 2016). However, it has serious consequences for the ecology of Ethiopia, as mainly rice is cultivated on these lands, exhausting the soil. However, the local population is against such partnership. In Ethiopia, most protests are associated with the fact that the country has decided to dispose of the lands. In a small town Ginchi, which is located 80 km from the capital Addis Ababa, protests began after the decision of the government to cut down the forest and resettle the farmers to expand the capital within the framework of the investment project. In the article, “Such a Brutal Crackdown: Killings and arrests in response to Ethiopia’s Oromo protests” (2016), it is noted that “the decision of authorities in Ginchi to clear a forest and football field for an investment project triggered protests in at least 400 different locations across all the 17 zones in Oromia.” According to Human Rights Watch, many people were killed during the clashes, in which police used firearms (“Such a Brutal Crackdown,” 2016). Therefore, local people do not always support the government’s ideas.

Social Problems of Ethiopia

In addition to numerous problems associated with economy situation, Ethiopia also experiences great social problems. They mainly include the level of education and medicine in the country. Ethiopia’s health system is considered one of the worst in the world, despite the fact that the government of country has conducted a number of innovations and reforms (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). The main problem of the Ethiopian medicine is a catastrophic scarcity of doctors. Frequently, patients with extremely severe diseases can wait for several days to consult a doctor. For example, a number of obstetricians and gynecologists in the country does not exceed 200 people (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). An especially hard situation with the healthcare is in villages where nurses and paramedics treat local people. Thus, the level of medicine in the country is the poorest among other African countries.

Another social problem in Ethiopia is the level of education in the country. Nowadays, many young people in the state want to receive good and qualified education. Nevertheless, the quality of education is a reason for concern. The number of teachers does not meet the increasing number of students (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). As teachers of Ethiopia cannot occupy all the vacancies, they are also invited from abroad. Nevertheless, most universities do not have the resources to train or supervise efficiently new and inexperienced teachers. The quality of infrastructure is limited as well. For several years, Ethiopia experienced difficulties from the regular blackouts. However, only several universities have generators to keep the technical infrastructure at the time of a power outage. The construction of new school buildings, the development of Internet technologies, creation of computer labs, and expansion of library collections lag behind the growth of the student population (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). International agencies help the government of Ethiopia to develop a new material base and infrastructure. Nonetheless, their efforts are largely uncoordinated and take much time.

Refugees are another social problem existing in Ethiopia. According to the UN, prolonged conflicts in different African states led to displacement of refugees in the continent (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). Ethiopia serves as an example of the country that suffers from refugees. In the UN list, this country occupies the fifth place in the world in the number of refugees (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). Moreover, it occupies the first place in Southern and Central Africa (Toggia & Zegeye, 2013). Refugees have an extremely negative impact on the economy and infrastructure of the country. At the same time, Ethiopia that accepts most of the refugees on its territory can do little to prevent the crisis. Developed states should understand that the scope of the ongoing events require a global approach. It means an equitable allocation of responsibilities, implying the allocation of money for refugees, the provision of homeless refugees, and the efforts for peace and prosperity in the country. Thus, it is a great social problem for Ethiopia that should be immediately solved.


As one of the least developed countries, Ethiopia has various social and economic problems. It is an agrarian country, industrial development of which is quite weak. An agro-industrial sector suffers from frequent droughts and primitive traditional farming. Most of the population does not receive such basic social services as good healthcare and education. It is primary associated with the lack of qualified personnel. In addition, refugees have also become a rather urgent social problem in Ethiopia. The government of the country cannot cope with the ongoing influx of people from African and European countries. Despite the fact that many international organizations undertake certain efforts to improve the situation with refugees in Ethiopia, it is not enough. The same situation is with the country’s economy. World organizations, unions, and other countries allocate money to improve infrastructure and economy of the country but still much has to be done to make the situation in Ethiopia better.

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