The historical linkages between Ethiopia and India go back to about 2,000 years. That is when Indian traders brought silk and spices to Ethiopia in return for gold and ivory. In the latter part of the 19th century, a large number of Indian communities comprising of merchants and artisans settled in Ethiopia, some of whose descendants are still present to this day in Ethiopia. The movement has not been one-sided. It is also known that thousands of people of Ethiopian origin had settled in Gujarat and some other parts of India and became an integral part of that society.
Diplomatic relations were formally established in the middle of the last century in 1948. Ethiopia became one of the first countries in Africa to open its Embassy in India immediately after India’s independence in 1947. Ever since the establishment of these relations, the two countries have exerted efforts to strengthen their longstanding bilateral ties. Accordingly, exchanges of visits were made by the leaders and higher officials of the two countries. High-level visits from Ethiopia include Emperor H/Selassie’s visits to India in 1956 and 1968, the Dergue President Mengistu H/Mariam’s visits in 1983 and 1985, the Late Prime Minister H.E. Meles Zenawi’s visits in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the former Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn’s visit in 2015. On the other hand, high-level visits from India include Dr. Radhakrishnon, President of India’s visit in 1957, Shri.V.K. Groven, special envoy of Indian Government’s visit in 2005, Dr.Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India’s visit in 2011 and H.E. Mr. Ram NathKovind, President of India’s visit to Ethiopia in October 2017.
1. Current Relations
1.1. Political Relations
As noted above, the two countries have long-standing diplomatic relations. Frequent exchange of high-level visits between the two countries laid the foundation for the current excellent relations. Recently, H.E. Mr. Ram NathKovind, President of India visited Ethiopia from October 4-6/2017 and held meetings with H. E. Dr. Mulatu Teshome, the former President of FDRE and H.E. Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, the former Prime Minister of FDRE. On the other hand, H.E. Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, the former Minister of foreign affairs of FDRE, visited India on May 9/2018 to attend the second Joint Ministerial Commission Meeting of the two countries. During those visits, consultations on multifaceted bilateral and regional issues have been made and the two countries showed their commitment to deepen the existing friendly relationship.
1.2. Economic Relations
Ethiopia and India have long-standing economic and commercial relations and bilateral relations have grown into an all-round development partnership covering trade, investment, development assistance, in the form of soft loans and technical assistance.
According to data from the Ethiopian Investment Commission in 2018, there are about 487 Indian companies in Ethiopia with licensed investment capital of over Eth. Birr 8.36 billion which have created employment opportunities for more than 35,000 Ethiopian citizens. The main investment areas are real estate, manufacturing, construction, health, agriculture, and agro-processing industry and manufacturing.
The trade between the two countries has been growing steadily. In 2017, India imported Ethiopian products worth USD 44.69 million. On the other hand, Ethiopia imported Indian products worth USD 1.09 Billion in the same year. The main trading items of Ethiopia exported to India are semi-precious stones, unfinished leather, leather products, cotton, oilseeds, spices. The main export items of India to Ethiopia include sugar, rice, drugs, and pharmaceuticals, steel product, primary, and semi-finished iron, machinery, and instrument, paper products, etc
The trade balance remains in favor of India. For instance, the bilateral trade in 2017-18 stood at US$1.271 billion, of which India’s exports to Ethiopia were US$1.224 billion and imports were US$47.45 million.
1.2.3. Financial and Technical Cooperation
Ethiopia has benefited from the line of credit (LOC) from India. So far, India has granted more than USD 1.1 billion LOC to Ethiopia mainly to sugar projects such as Fincha, Wonji Shoa and Tendaho, and to rural electrification.
India is also an important source of suitable technologies and skills for the development of value-added agricultural products, light manufacturing, and infrastructure. India also offers technical assistance to Ethiopia in the form of training, capacity building, and technology transfer.
1.3. Capacity Building
Ethiopia is benefiting from scholarships and short-term training programs offered by India. Ethiopia also benefits from India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and CV Raman Fellow Scholarship, all fully funded programs by the Indian government. During the second Ethio- India Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) held on May 9/2018, India promised to raise the training slot to 350 in the year 2017/18. In addition to this India raise the training slot to 450 in the year 2019/20. Those programs which are offered to different government institutions are contributing to human capital development.
2. Future Prospects
The relationship between Ethiopia and India is multifaceted which covers a wide range of political, economic, financial and technical cooperation.