Topography and Government
With an area of 1,112,000 square kilometres, Ethiopia is as large as France and Spain combined. From the north and running down the centre are the Abyssinian highlands, to the west of the chain the land drops to the grasslands of Sudan, to the east to the deserts of the Afar and the Red Sea. South of Addis Ababa the land is dominated by the Rift Valley Lakes. The main rivers are the Blue Nile, the Tekezze, the Awash, the WabeShabele, the Omo, and the Baro. 80% of the land in Africa over 3000 meters is found in Ethiopia.
Government and recent history
In 1974 the imperial government of Haile Selassie I was overthrown by a group of lower ranking officers from the armed forces. During the following 17 years Ethiopia was wracked by civil wars and state sponsored famines. The military regime was finally overthrown in May 1991 by a coalition of rebel groups called the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which continues to dominate the government today. Ethiopia is now a Federal democratic Republic made up of 9 regions based mainly on ethnicity and two city administration. The present government was re-elected in May 2010 for a 5-year term. Next elections are due in May 2015.
85% of the population get their livelihood from the land. Coffee (the word originates from the name of the province of Kaffa, in the south west of Ethiopia, the birth place of coffee) provides the bulk of foreign currency earnings, although the rise in importance of other products has meant a fall in its share.
Ethiopia is the third biggest coffee exporter in the world. The export of oilseeds (Ethiopia is the fourth biggest exporter in the world), pulses, spices, gold, flowers, livestock, skins and hides (Ethiopia has the largest domestic livestock population in Africa), textiles, chat, and animal feed makes up the rest of Ethiopia’s foreign currency earnings, with tourism making an increasingly important contribution – recent figures now put tourism ahead of coffee exports on terms of foreign currency earnings.
The opening up of the economy since the overthrow of the previous government in 1991 has created more favourable grounds for development of Ethiopia’s rich resource base. Ethiopia is the “water tower” of the region (the Blue Nile contributes up to 85% of the main Nile flow) and projects are now being implemented to better exploit the country’s water resources both for power generation (up 500% since 1991, and set to increase by an additional 500% by 2015 – the export of hydro power to neighbouring Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan is underway – and to boost agricultural production through irrigation schemes. Mineral exploration and mining has stepped up in recent years – there are reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, copper, tantalum, potash, zinc, iron ore, nickel, marble, precious and semi-precious stones.
Thermal power generation schemes are already operational in Afar and Oromo Regions, and the Ashegoda wind farm in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, the biggest wind farm in Sub Saharan Africa, will provide the country with 120MW on completion. Even bigger wind farm are undergoing near Adama and Asela, south east of Addis Ababa.
The late Ethiopian Prime Minister, MelesZenawi, in 2011 laid the foundation stone of what is being called the Grand Renaissance dam, which on completion will generate 6000 MW, making it the 10th biggest dam in the world. The site is on the Blue Nile, in the BeniShangul Region, some 40 km from the border with Sudan. Other hydro power projects are planned for other places on the Blue Nile, and in Oromia.