Ethio -SriLanka Relations

Historical Background

In the 15th century, many soldiers from the northern part of Ethiopia traveled to Sri Lanka as part of the Portuguese military force. In relation to this movement, it is believed that there are people in the western part of Sri Lanka in a place called Puttalam, whose origin is from Ethiopia.

In recent times, Emperor Haile Selassie brought many teachers from Sri Lanka in the 1960s, however, many returned back to Sri Lanka after the Derge regime came to power in Ethiopia.

Following the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1960, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka support each other in certain international issues of common interest. Consequently,  Ethiopia and Sri-Lanka established diplomatic relations in 1972.

Sri Lanka was one of the countries which immediately recognize the EPRDF government when it came to power in 1991.

Current Bilateral Relations between Ethiopia and Sri Lanka

A Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka visited Ethiopia in 2013 and held discussions with Ethiopian officials, on ways to boost the political and economic relationship between the two countries. The government of Sri Lanka opened its Embassy in Addis Ababa in October 2016. The former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, made official visit to Ethiopia in February 2017 and held bilateral discussions with former Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, and, the former Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives, H.E. Mr. Abadula Gemeda. The Minister also inaugurated the official opening of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Addis Ababa. At this time, two agreements, namely Establishment of Joint Commission and Memorandum of Understanding on Diplomatic Consultations was signed between the two countries.

The trade between the two countries is very low, but the volume shows improvement over time. The volume increased from USD 2.2 million in 2015 to USD 8.06 million in 2017.  The trade balance is in favor of Sri Lanka.

 Regarding FDI from Sri Lanka, there are a total of 5 Sri Lankan Companies operating in Ethiopia, both in a joint venture and fully operated by Sri Lankan citizens. The major investment area is apparel manufacturing.

Lessons for Ethiopia from the Strength of Sri Lanka

·        Developed Agro-Industry: Sri Lanka highly benefits from the exports of the products of agro-industries. The tea industry is highly developed in Sri Lanka. In 2014 Sri Lanka exported a value of 1.63 billion USD tea across different countries.

·        Export Processing Zones/EPZ (Industrial Parks): Sri Lanka build EPZ with the aim to attract foreign investment. There are about 12 EPZ in Sri Lanka with a one-stop service.

·        Textile and Garment: Sri Lanka has a developed textile and garment industry. The sector covers 45% of the share of export. In 2016, the country earned USD 4.8 billion from the sector.




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