Ethiopia is a large country in Eastern Africa, approximately twice the size of the state of Texas. It is bordered by Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan. With a population of 92 million, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Sub–Saharan Africa.
Aside from a brief occupation by Italy in 1936-1941, Ethiopia largely escaped European imperialism. The Derg, a military junta, established a socialist state in 1974 after removing Emperor Haile Selassie I, who ruled Ethiopia for over 40 years. Despite the initial popularity of the Derg, their oppressive, brutal politics resulted in three decades of violence, which was made worse by drought and the famine of the ‘80s. In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDP) overthrew the government. A constitution was adopted three years later. The EPRDF decentralized federal powers, delegating authority to regional states and district and village authorities. The first peaceful, constitutional transition of power took place in 2012.
Although Ethiopia is considered one of the world’s poorest countries, it has experienced considerable economic growth in the past decade compared to the rest of the region. Supported by public and foreign investments, the agricultural sector, which employs 85% of the population, has led the economic revival. Ethiopia’s tropical monsoon climate is conducive to the production of the country’s chief agricultural exports – coffee, gold, khat, animals, and oil seeds. The government has worked closely with international donors to strengthen the agriculture industry to bolster food security and economic gains.
While GDP has improved, per-capita income in Ethiopia remains low. Although the brightening economic situation helped reduce the poverty rate, it remained near 40% as of 2012. With roughly 37 million people living in poverty, there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure basic needs are met, especially in the area of water security and sanitation. According to the Joint Monitoring Program’s 2014 estimates, 48% of the general population uses an unimproved water source, and 63% uses an unimproved sanitation facility. In rural Ethiopia these figures are higher at 58% and 70%, respectively. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation has implications for other sectors of development like maternal health, one of Ethiopia’s major health concerns. Despite a slight reduction in 2005, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa
Nevertheless, Ethiopia has made notable progress in certain areas of development. The country achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for child mortality, and is on track to reach the MDG targets for gender parity in education, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. In addition, the Ethiopian Government enacted the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in 2010 to catalyze widespread and sustainable development to help meet the MDGs. The five-year plan has many ambitious reforms regarding economic growth, infrastructure development, and poverty reduction. Maintenance of public and private support for social programs, as well as effective distribution of resources and systems to effectively implement and monitor social programs, will be key to achieving outcomes.