Buying and Selling

flag Ethiopia Ethiopia: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Economic Cooperation
Member of African Union

Member of Common Market for Eastern and Souther Africa (COMESA)

Member of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Non Tariff Barriers
Some sectors still remain closed to foreign investment (namely telecom and financial services) in Ethiopia. Increased trade and investment are constrained by poor infrastructure, bureaucratic procedures, non-transparent manual systems, shortage in foreign exchange and high transportation & transaction costs.

Importers face difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange, particularly those that import goods for domestic sale.  The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) has put in place a strict foreign currency control regime and must approve all foreign currency transactions. While larger firms, State-owned enterprises, and manufacturing industries have not faced major problems in obtaining foreign exchange, the remaining firms face burdensome delays in arranging trade-related payments. An importer must apply for an import permit and obtain a letter of credit for the total value of the imports before an order can be placed. 

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Customs duties in Ethiopia are payable on imports by all persons and entities that have no duty-free privileges. The rate of customs duty ranges from 0% to 35% with an average rate of 17%. In recent years, Ethiopia has reduced customs duties on a wide range of imports but duties are still too high for some items such as vehicles. Other taxes may also be imposed on imports. These are excise duties on selected goods (e.g., tobacco), surtax on many imports and the value added tax (15%).

Customs Classification
Ethiopia is a member of the World Customs organization and does comply with the harmonized customs system.
Import Procedures
Imports to Ethiopia require:

  • Agency agreement
  • A bank permit
  • A bill of lading or airway bill;
  • Certificate of origin;
  • Commercial invoices;
  • Customs import declaration;
  • Foreign exchange authorization;
  • Import license ;
  • Insurance certificate;
  • Packing list;
  • Tax identification number(TIN) certificate;
  • Pre shipment inspection clean report of findings;
  • Transit document;
  • Value added tax (VAT) Certificate.  

Medicines, medical supplies, and medical equipment must be registered with the Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration & Control Authority of Ethiopia (FMHCA).  A Certificate of Analysis (COA) is also required for processed food and pharmaceuticals.

Plants or plant products, including seeds, agricultural inputs such as chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers cannot be imported in Ethiopia unless registered and duly authorized for import by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Importing Samples
The main way to ship goods to Ethiopia is by air and road. As a landlock country, Ethiopia has no access to the sea and as a result, all of its imports pass through the port of Djibouti.
For Further Information
Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority
Business Portal for Africa

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
Ethiopia follows Nigeria as the second most populous nation in Africa, with 102 million people and two major ethnic groups (Oromo and Amhara) that make about 60% of the population. Almost 65% of the population is under the age of 25, and 2 million people are added to the workforce every year. GDP per capita (PPP) was estimated at USD 2,160 in 2017 by the IMF, however there is still an income disparity between urban and rural populations (the latter reported at 80.08 % in 2016, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators). Regarding gender, Ethiopian consumers are equally divided between men and women (99.7 males per 100 females).
Consumer Behaviour
For Ethiopian consumers price is the main key purchasing factor, however for some food products prices are imposed by the government. Moreover, government policies to contrast food poverty and stimulate the economy have resulted in strong growth in sales of a few staple foodstuffs, while the range of packaged food being sold in the country is still limited, though it is expanding as the tastes of wealthier consumers become more sophisticated, especially in urban areas. According to a survey by Nielsen, food and grocery account for almost 40% of monthly household spending. In the same survey, Nielsen found that the three major consumer segments account for close to 60% of Ethiopian respondents: the first one (17% of respondents) is composed by young urban dwellers with an above-average income, which are willing to pay more for quality and represent a breeding ground for launching or growing brands; the second one (25%) is formed mainly by students in peri–urban areas, who have affordability and availability as main concerns when making a purchase decision; and the third one made of traditional, family–oriented and religious individuals, who value affordability and are open to recommendation (16% of respondents).
Consumers Associations
Ethiopian Consumers Protection Association
Main Advertising Agencies
Berry Advertising Agency
Alliance Media
Cactus Communication

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
Ethiopia’s retail grocery sector, which is exclusively concentrated in Addis Ababa,the capital city, has experienced a rapid growth in recent years spurred by the country’s strong economic growth, rising urbanization, and growing population. Over the last decade, Ethiopia has seen a surge in the number of grocery stores opening in the capital. This growing trend, which is expected to continue into the future, is primarily attributed to the country’s double-digit growth over the last decade, urbanization, and the expanding population of Addis Ababa. Increased economic prosperity has translated into more disposable income that can be used for local and imported foods, including those outside the traditional Ethiopian diet. In addition, the presence of a sizeable expat and diaspora community is contributing to increased demand for certain imported foods, especially Western and Asian products. As a consequence, more and more urban, middle-class consumers are turning to grocery stores, mini-marts, and neighborhood kiosks to satisfy some of the food and beverage demands. In response to this growing and anticipated demand, the number of grocery stores has expanded in recent years.
Market share
As of 2018, eight major supermarket chains, with a total of 21 stores, are open across Addis Ababa. The major food retail stores – Shoa, Fantu, Safeway, Friendship, Bambis, All-Mart, Novis, and Loyal – supply a wide range of products, most of which are imported foods and beverages. In addition to these major players, there are mid and smaller-sized stores.
Retail Sector Organisations
Ministry of Trade - Ethiopia

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Internet access
According to IWS’ statistics on Ethiopia, out of a population of 107.5 million, only 15.3% have access to the internet.
In 2017, the number of mobile subscriptions reached 53 million, up 11% compared to the previous year (data by Ethio Telecom). The Ethiopian telecommunication monopolist also revealed that out of the total subscribers, 25% of them use internet and data. However, the number of smartphone users is still low, below 5%.

According to the Digital in 2018 report published by We Are Social, data on Ethiopia shows that the number of internet users grew by 37% in one year, while the number of active social media users also grew significantly (20%). The majority of Ethiopians access the internet from a mobile device.

The most popular web search engines in Ethiopia are Google (92.9%), Yahoo and Bing (3.2% and 3% respectively).
E-commerce market
E-commerce is still at the embryonic level and is rarely used. This is due to the lack of IT infrastructures and even more to the absence of a legal framework. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has been drafting a national law to regulate e-commerce: when approved and implemented, such a tool is expected to boost the online market. Furthermore, Ethiopian banks do not issue credit cards, and only lately the local financial institutions have started using primary internet transactions through mobile and card banking services.

The main platforms to shop online are Jumia (by far the leading online market place in the country),,, ShebaShopping and Delala, all of which are market places.

The most used social medias are Facebook (with 4.5 million users in December 2017 - IWS), YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Instagram’s user base is relatively low, with 330.000 users. It needs to be noted that social media in Ethiopia have been subject to blockage by the government (especially in relation to the Oromo protests at the end of 2017) and in some regions mobile data was totally stopped. In 2016, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Viber were temporarily blocked as the government considered them as “a distraction for students”.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Port of Djibouti - transport agreement with Ethiopia
Addis Ababa Airport
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services
Sea Transport Organisations
Ethiopian Maritime Affaires Authority
Air Transport Organisations
Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority
Road Transport Organisations
Ethiopian Roads Authority
Rail Transport Organisations
Ethiopian Railway Corporation

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
In 2016, industry represented 22,2% of the total GDP of Ethiopia. While Ethiopia's industrial sector engages primarily in food processing, it also produces sugar, alcohol and soft drinks, cigarettes, cotton and textiles, footwear, soap, ethyl alcohol, and quicklime. Cement production is also significant. Industrial facilities are concentrated around Addis Ababa, depend heavily on agricultural inputs, and primarily serve the domestic market. Ethiopia has few proven oil and natural gas reserves, although the potential of these industries is seen as promising.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
2Merkato - Business directory in Ethiopia, by category
AddisBiz - Business directory with information about businesses and companies in Ethiopia - Ethiopia business directory
Afrikta - Ethiopia business directory
AllAboutEthio - Ethiopian online business directory
ET Yellow Pages - Ethiopian Yellow Pages
Ethiopia Yellow Pages - Ethiopia business directory
Ethiopia YP - Ethiopia business directory
Ethiovisit - Addis Ababa business directory - Ethiopia business directory

To search directories by industry in Ethiopia, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
67 professional associations listed for Ethiopia.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Ethiopian Government Portal
Ethiopian Investment Commission
Ethiopian Standards Agency
Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
Contact Your Commercial Representations in Ethiopia
Mauritian Embassy in Ethiopia
P.O Box 200222, Addis Ababa,
Tel: 020 25111 661 5997 (PABX)
Fax: 020 25111 661 4704
Contact the Embassy per Email.
General Professional Associations
Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce

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Latest Update: April 2024