12 Facts You Need to Know about Ethiopia!

Posted by Jennifer Naidoo on Thursday 19th January 2017

As an NGO that supports work in Ethiopia exclusively, we thought we should share some facts about the very country whose change and progress we are most humbled to be part of! We guarantee you’ll find at least 3 of the following 12 facts interesting (sorry, no refunds!).

#1 Coming in at 4.4 million years, Ardi is the oldest hominid ever to be discovered, followed by Lucy at 3.2 million years old- making Ethiopia the birthplace of Humankind! As an aside, Ardi was discovered by Ethiopian Paleoanthropologist, Yohannes Haile-Selassie.[1],[2]   Image: Ardi. Source Wikipedia- Ardi.

#2 Standing tall (literally) at 2,400 metres, or 8,000 feet, Addis Ababa is the highest capital city in Africa and the third highest capital in the world.[3] Image: Bole, Addis Ababa. Source: addisababaonline.com

#3 In the classroom, we’re almost even, boys and girls! In grades 5-8 the ratio of girls to boys is now at 97%, almost 1 girl for every boy in class! Though this number is improving at other grade levels as well, the quality of education has been declining. We know it’s happening, and the government is making efforts to reverse it![4],[5] Image: Happy learning at Hope Enterprises in Ethiopia! ©Ethiopiaid

#4 A pillar of strength, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa never to have been colonized, although this was attempted twice by Italy. However, some delicious Italian influence remains, like macchiatos, pasta and pastries.  Image: Statue of the Lion of Judah taken against the Ethiopian National Theatre. A symbol of Ethiopian freedom erected for the coronation of Haile Sellassie I, stolen by the Italians and placed in Rome, in 1935. It was finally returned to Addis Ababa in the 1960s. © Jennifer Naidoo


#5 Here’s a feel-good quote from the World Bank (2016) we think belongs in this list: “Over the past two decades…primary school enrolments have quadrupled, child mortality has been cut in half, and the number of people with access to clean water has more than doubled.”[4] Image: Clean Water in Ethiopia. ©Charity:Water

#6 “13 months of Sunshine”: Ethiopia runs on a 13 month Julian calendar. Today, January 19, 2017 is 11 Tarr, 2009 in Ethiopia. Interesting, right? Image: January 19, 2017 from ethiopiancalendar.net. 

#7 Despite early marriage being outlawed, Ethiopia still has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 16% of girls married before the age of 15 and 41% married before the age of 18.[6] We’ll expand on this serious challenge in coming blogs!

#8 The first African ever to win Gold in the Olympic Games was Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila. He ran the race barefoot![7] Check him out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_Nygi01VqI

#9 While Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world, it was also one of the first countries to sign the Charter of United Nations. Ethiopia is currently home to the Headquarters of the African Union. Image: The African Union HQ in Addis.

#10 Ethiopia’s official language is Amharic. In addition to this, there are 88 individual languages spoken, with English being the main foreign language taught in schools.[8] Image: Map of Ethiopia.

#11 New achievement unlocked: In less than 3 years, Ethiopia has more than doubled the number of health centres in 6 regions of the country. Now, more people than ever have access to healthcare. To keep pushing forward, the country will need to improve the ratio of health professionals to people, consistently provide quality care in all facilities in all regions, and train more doctors.[5]

#12  Finally, the best is of course, last. So most of us know that the origin of our favourite bean (coffee, obviously) comes from Ethiopia, but how was it discovered? Told for generations in Ethiopia, and shared with us the same way, the story goes like this: One day a young Ethiopian herder named Kaldi noticed his goats eating the coffee plant and becoming energized, so he decided to try it. He ate it, but nothing really happened. After trying it in several different ways, he finally roasted it, ground it, and put it in hot water, like tea. This is how coffee, as we know it, was discovered.  Coffee shops named after Kaldi can be found all over Addis Ababa, and even in Nairobi, Kenya. I thank my sweet grinds for Kaldi every day! Image: Jebena used for brewing buna (or coffee) in Ethiopia. Source: NatGeo

Special thank you to one of our very own Ethiopian-Canadian volunteers, Eden, who helped research and add to this blog! Also, huge thank you to our volunteer Patricia, for meticuliously editing our work. 


  1. National Geographic. (n.d.). Explorers Bio: Yohannes Haile-Selassie. Retrieved from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/yohannes-haile-selassie/
  2. Institute of Human Origins. (n.d.). Lucy's Story. Retrieved from https://iho.asu.edu/about/lucys-story
  3. Marcus, H. G., & Crummey, D. E. (2016, June 30). Britannica Online: Ethiopia. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Ethiopia
  4. The World Bank: Ethiopia Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/ethiopia/overview#1
  5. UNDP. (2014). National Human Development Report 2014: Ethiopia (pp. 1-123, Publication). Addis Ababa, ET. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/nhdr2015-ethiopia-en.pdf
  6. UNICEF. (2014, November). THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN 2015: Executive Summary. pp. 90. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2015_Summary_and_Tables.pdf
  7. Abebe Bikila: barefoot to Olympic gold. (2017, January 08). Retrieved from https://www.olympic.org/videos/abebe-bikila-barefoot-to-olympic-gold
  8. The World Factbook: ETHIOPIA. (2017, January 12). Retrieved January 19, 2017, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html

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