Ethiopia India Relationship

Historical Relations:

Historical linkages between India and Ethiopia go back more than two thousand years of history. Axumite traders in the 1st century AD via the ancient port of Adulis traded with Indians. They imported silk and spices from India and sold gold and ivory. The Hapshis were known to have arrived in India in the 13th century AD. In the 16th century AD, the Portuguese assisted the Christian King(Lebene Dingel) in Ethiopia to repel Muslim invaders from east Ethiopia which were supported by the Turkish, and the Portugese brought many Indian from a part of India called Goa. Indian troops came to Ethiopia in 1868 as soldiers of Robert Napier, the British Commander –in –Chief in Bombay led a punitive expedition to obtain the release of European diplomats and missionaries who had been imprisoned by Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia in his bunker fort at Makdala. The 30,000 strong force had 13,000 soldiers from India, mostly Sikhs.

In the 19th century Jawahalal Nerhu's anti Fascism and Imperialism stand made him strongly condemned Italian invasion of Ethiopia and gave a call to his countrymen to observe Abyssinian day. Late When the British Army allied with Ethiopian patriots to end the Italian occupation of Ethiopia (1936-41) it had a sizeable contingent of Indian soldiers. General William Plat, who led one of the three simultaneous attacks, commanded a force consisting of the 4th and 5th Indian Divisions.

Political Relation:

Soon after Indian independence, a goodwill mission led by Sardar Sant Singh was sent to Ethiopia. Diplomatic relations at legation level were established in 1948. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1950 with assignment of Ato Amanuel Abrham as the first Ambassador of Ethiopia to India. Ethiopia was the first country from Africa who opened its Embassy in India, New Delhi during that time while other African countries were under European colony.

The bilateral relation was strong during the imperial regime. Nevertheless, after the overthrow of the regime by the military junta in 1974-1991 the bilateral relation was limited cooperation in international forums like NAM. During the Ethiopian-Somali War, between July 1977 and March 1978 over the Somali forces aggression to control a part of Ethiopia called Ogaden, India supported Ethiopia's right to defend itself and told the Somalia government to respect the AAU charter.

The bilateral relation attained its momentum after the demise of the military regime in Ethiopia. An agreement to establish a Joint Commission and a Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations was signed in July 2007.

The first meeting of the Joint Commission was held in New Delhi in December 2010. The Ethiopian side was led by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hailemariam Desalegn while the External Affairs Minister of India led the Indian delegation. Furthermore, the first round of Consultations was held in New Delhi in March 2010 and the second was held in Addis Ababa in January 2012.;

The bilateral agreements signed by the two countries so far are: Air Services Agreement (1967) which was signed again in March 2008, Agreement on Technical, Economic and Scientific Cooperation (1969), Cultural Agreement (1983), Trade Agreement (1997), Agreement on Cooperation in Micro Dams and Small Scale Irrigation Schemes (2002), Agreement on Establishment of Joint Ministerial Commission (2007), Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (2007), Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology (2007), Educational Exchange Programme (2007), Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations (2007), Double Taxation avoidance treaty (2011), MOU between NSIC, India and FEMSEDA (2011), MOU between ICAR and Ethiopian institute of Agricultural Research in December 2011.

Ethiopia opened its Consulate General Office in Mumbai In 2006. Besides additional Honorable consulate offices were opened in Calcutta, Chennai and Bangalore in 2012. The two countries have a strong relation and multi-faceted relation in south south cooperation in Economy (investment, trade, LOC and capacity building), political, Anti-terrorism, etc.


Bilateral visits

Emperor Haile Selassie I visited India in 1956, 1959 and 1968. Col. Mengistu HaileMariam, visited India in 1983 for the NAM Summit. He later paid a State visit to India in 1985. Late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited India on a bilateral visit in March 1997. He again visited India for the 4th International Conference on Federalism in November 2007. He accompanied by Mrs. Azeb Mesfin, visited India for the India Africa Forum Summit in 2008. In February 2009, he participated in the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. Former Foreign Minister (present PM), Hailemariam Desalegn visited India for the first meeting of the Joint Commission in December 2010. Deputy prime minister and and Minister of Information and Communication H.E Debretsion G/Michael visited India in November/2013.

From India, President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan visited Ethiopia in 1965. This was followed by the visit of Vice President Zakir Hussain in 1967 and President V.V. Giri in 1972. Smt. Indira Gandhi visited Ethiopia as Minister of Information and Broadcasting in 1964. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, then External Affairs Minister, visited Ethiopia in July 2 2007. Minister of State, Ms. Preneet Kaur, visited Ethiopia on 27 - 31 January 2011 to attend the African Union Summit. She again visited Ethiopia on 1-2 September 2012 to attend funeral of Late PM Meles Zenawi. PM Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Addis Ababa during the India Africa Forum Summit –II held 23-26 May 2011, which was the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Ethiopia.

During his visit, he also addressed a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament (House of the Peoples Representatives and the House of Federation). Vice president, Smt. Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for External Affairs led the Indian delegation for the funeral of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that held in September 2012. Sh. Hamid Ali Ansari, visited Ethiopia on 25thMay 2013, to attend the Golden Jubilee celebration of the African Union.

Economic and Commercial Relations:

Today, economic and commercial relations are the most important plank of our relationship. A trade agreement, signed by the two countries in 1997 provides for the establishment of a Joint Trade Committee (JTC) and meetings are held from time to time. The first meeting of the JTC was held in Addis Ababa in February 1998, the second in Delhi in March 2001, the third in Addis Ababa in July 2002, the fourth in New Delhi in January 2006 and the fifth in Addis Ababa in October 2008. For the fifth meeting, the Ethiopian side was led by Mr. Ahmed Tusa, State Minister for Trade and Industry and the Indian side by Shri Jairam Ramesh, MOS for Commerce and Power.

Bilateral Trade:

Up to October 2013, Ethiopia-India bilateral trade was US $ 1.082 billion. Ethiopia's exports were worth US $ 38.56 million comprising mainly pulses, semi-precious stones, gym-stone, unfinished leather, leather products, cotton, oil seeds and spices. Ethiopia's imports was worth US $ 1.053 billion comprising primary and semifinished iron and steel products, drugs and pharmaceuticals, machinery and instruments, metal, plastic and linoleum products, paper and paper products, yarns and textiles, chemicals, transport equipments, electrical materials etc. (Source: Department of Commerce, Government of India, March 31, 2014)

Bilateral Investments

Ethiopia and India had decade's long investment relation. B K Birla Group (Indo Ethiopian Textiles Share Company) established the first major joint venture by any Indian Industrialist in globe in 1959. The Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Sellassie awarded him, the medal of the Meinelik II', the highest Ethiopian Award of that time.

India is ranking among the top largest foreign investors in Ethiopia with approved investment of US $ 4.8 billion. Of this, an estimated US$ 2.5 billion is already on the ground or in the pipeline. There are 632(June 2003-January 2014) Indian projects approved by the Ethiopian Investment Agency in Ethiopia. About 34% of Indian investment is in the field of agriculture (cotton, horticulture, floriculture, bio- fuel, soya bean, edible oil crops, dairy farm); Manufacturing (garment and textile, leather and leather products, pharmaceuticals, metal, paper and printing); mining, consultancy etc... Some of the major investors in this field are: M/s Karaturi, Bho-Bio, Ruchi Soya, Sannata Group , White Field Cotton. Regarding sector wise structure of investment, out of the total number of licensed projects 48% are manufacturing, 22% are agriculture and 13% are real estate projects. (Source: Ethiopian Investment Agency, March 2014)

Joint Business Council

An agreement to establish a Joint Business Council with the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and from the Indian side FICCI and ASSOCHAM was signed in June 1997. The first meeting was held in Addis Ababa in 1998 and the second was held in New Delhi in 2001. Both meetings were held on the margins of meetings of the Joint Trade Committee.


Ethiopia is focussing on tourism from India, with an aim to bag a substantial chunk of 13 million Indians travelling outside every year. Ethiopian airline presently operates a total of 14 passenger and 9 cargo flights a week from Delhi and Mumbai. It also plans to operate from other Indian cities like Chennai Bangalore and Ahmedabad in coming years. Keeping in mind the distinct food habits of the Indian tourists, the country is paying special attention to this factor. A good number of Indian restaurants are operating in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian food is very close to Indian in terms of flavour and sometimes even ingredients in some cases. This has a potential to harness the flow of Indian tourists to Ethiopia which has all forms of tourism, be it historical, wild life, religious and anthropological. We need to promote it as a package.

Development Partnership

Ethiopia values India as an important partner in its development efforts. Historical records show that Indian technical assistance to Ethiopia was started in the 1950s when Emperor Haile sellassie broached the the idea of establishing a military academy in Ethiopia to his friend, the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru at the conference of NAM countries. Consequently, Harar was selected as the venue and the Academy was set up in 1957.

After the establishment of India Africa forum in 2008, Ethiopia is fairly utilized Indian Lines of Credit (LOCs). A concessional line of credit of US $ 65 million was approved in January 2006. The credit was given to support the rural electrification programme. The Government of Ethiopia had, in February 2006, requested for US $ 640 million in concessional lines of credit for financing the development of the sugar industry. The total cost of the project was indicated to be US $ 1.35 billion. The project involves setting up a green field project at Tendaho with an annual sugar production of 600,000 tonnes, expansion of the existing Finchaa Sugar Factory to take its annual production up to 270,000 tonnes and expansion of the existing Wonji-Shoa factory to take its production up to 300,000 tonnes. According to Ethiopia's Growth and Transformation Plan, the country planned to produce 2.25 million tonnes of sugar and 304,000 cu metres of ethanol, including proposals to export sugar worth $661 million by the end of the plan. The project will change Ethiopia from being an importer of sugar to a major exporter. Ethiopia will become self-sufficient in sugar it will earn up to $376 million annually in revenue from sugar exports. It will have 2,000 MW of electricity generation as co-generation from sugar and 3 lakh tonnes of ethanol generation increased employment potential, the local economy has been stimulated.

Indian Africa Forum has earmarked 300 million USD to finance regional integration projects through railway connecting the city of Asaita and the port of Tadjourah in neighboring Djibouti. An additional US $ 300 million LOC is in pipeline in 2014. The project is in the tender process.

Under the India Africa forum summit II decisions, AU has decided in may/21014 that an India-Africa Integrated Textiles Cluster project to be set up in Ethiopia. The cluster will support the cotton industry and its processing and conversion into high value products.

Cooperation in Education /Capacity Building/ Sector

The two countries have signed the Educational Exchange Program in July 2007. This led to the establishment of a Joint Working Group (JWG). The first meeting of the JWG was held in April 2011.

Indian ITEC program launched in 1969 with just 5 slots has increased to 220 slots in 2013-14. India also offers Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) 50 scholarships to Ethiopian students for University studies in India. Around 1500 Indian academics are teaching in various colleges and universities throughout Ethiopia.

The pan African e-Network project was launched in Ethiopia in July 2007 benefited Ethiopia a lot. This includes the Tele-Education Centre at Addis Ababa University and the Tele-Medicine Centre at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. The Tele- Education project has been replicated by the Ethiopian side and linkages established between the Addis Ababa University and the Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi and Kanpur.

India has established a Vocational Training cum Incubation Centre in Ethiopia under India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-I), 2008. The purpose of the centre is to provide practical training 20 types of manufacturing trades such as Soya Milk, Bakery & biscuits, tomato ketchup & fruit juice, honey processing, edible oil extraction, water filtration, packaging, gemstone cutting & polishing, jewelry making, paper napkin, toilet rolls, plastic bottle & caps, socks knitting, candle, chalk, wire nails, barbed wire, etc to entrepreneurs and unemployed persons in order to equip them with knowledge and expertise for setting up new small enterprises. The newly established Incubation Centre was handed over to Ethiopia on 15th November, 2013.

Barefoot College India has trained 34 poor rural women from four different regions in Ethiopia. So far more than 500 households have been successfully solar electrified, with an additional 170 mobile solar lanterns across 16 villages in 4 poorest regions Children able to study in the night and village mid-wives are able to help in delivering babies. Bare foot can be sited as an exemplary and impactful Indian project in Ethiopia.

The Central Leather Research Institute and the Footwear Design and Development Institute have a sizeable twinning program with the Ethiopian Leather Development Institute. The Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI) has recently signed a three-year twinning partnership agreement with the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) of India. As per the agreement, NIFT would be capacitating the ETIDI enabling it to provide training to the staff and to the participants from the garment industry in the area of fashion, manufacturing and marketing on continuous basis. Moreover, North India Textile Research Association (NITRA) has set up an institute of fashion at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The main objective will be to market Ethiopia as a sourcing destination for apparel and textiles and provide consultancy services for the industry.

Experts from the Centre for WTO Studies in India have held workshops for senior Ethiopian officials to enhance capacities for WTO accession negotiations. There have also been exchanges between our Foreign Service Institute and the counterpart Ethiopian institutions.

Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) provides 50 scholarships to Ethiopian students for University studies in India every year. The government of Ethiopia benefited from the full utilization of these scholarships in Masters and Ph.D studies.

The two countries have also agreed to cooperate in the field of education i.e. to train Ethiopian Government sponsored students in various Indian Universities in the field of Engineering, IT and Social sciences in Masters and PH.D level. So far more than 1000 higher level university instructors have been trained and other 350 are following their education in 21 Indian universities.

Cultural Cooperation:

The two sides had signed cultural agreement in 1983, since then both sides had many cultural exchange events. For instance an Ethiopian cultural music and dance group have come to New Delhi in October/2011 and performed in Delhi, Hydrabad and Travendpuram and similarly the following Indian cultural troupes have come to Ethiopia. Gujarati Dance troupe (2006), Bihari Dance Group (2007), Bharatnatyam Dance Troupe (2008), Goa Dance Troupe (2008), Fusion Music Group (2009), Punjabi Music and Dance Troupe (2010), Sidhi Goma Troupe (2011), Fusion Band 'Shwaas' (2012).

The traffic between the two countries is largely limited to the Indian community in Ethiopia, Ethiopian students studying in India, and Indian businessmen. After Indian independence many Indian teachers came to teach in schools all over Ethiopia even in the remotest parts. The cultural relation during that time was also very good. A sizeable Indian community consisting of teachers, merchants and artisans, settled down in Ethiopia. One typical example would be the Gandhi Memorial hospital for gynecology and obstetrics was set up by the Indian Community had presented to Us on the 25th anniversary of the then King Haile Sellassies I coronation December 5th 1963. The king in return dedicated the hospital to the memory of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, who is marveled for his dedication and sacrifice the world over, and named after him has now reached this stage. This shows the strong people to people bondage between the two countries. The numbers of the Indian community fell very significantly during the Derg regime. Presently, the Indians in Ethiopia are over 10,000 – the majority being the new investors and their employees, and professors in local Universities. The number of visas issued by the Embassy annually is in the range of 5000. Besides Indian tourists and business men get visa on arrival at the Addis Ababa Bole international Air port. In addition to this Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights to Delhi and twice daily flights to Mumbai. It has also a cargo flights to Chennai. This enabled the people's movement easy.

Another depiction of the strong efforts of strengthening the people to people relation is the opening of cultural centre by the Ethiopian Embassy in New Delhi. It was opened on March 19th/2013. The goal of the cultural centre is to strengthen a long term people to people relationship between the Ethiopia and India by promoting a positive view of Ethiopian people's culture, traditions to Indian citizens and foreign nationals and use that, to induce greater cooperation between the two nations that is built up over centuries old ties.