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Italy and Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a key partner for Italy in Sub-Saharan Africa, an essential reference point for the stability of a region that has long-standing relations with our country and plays a crucial role in international security today.

Bilateral political relations continue on a level of excellent cooperation, especially since the return of the Axum stele (April 2005), which opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries. Bilateral visits are frequent and cooperation on the Somali dossier is intense, as is, more generally, cooperation on all the most important regional issues. In fact, Ethiopia holds the Chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development-IGAD, a regional body in the Horn of Africa, while Italy is Co-Chairman of the Igad Partners Forum, which brings together donors supporting IGAD’s action.

At present, Ethiopia also holds the pro-tempore Presidency of the African Union, a factor that enhances its role as a protagonist of the continental integration body, whose headquarters is also located in Addis Ababa.

The mediating role that Ethiopia plays in some of the major conflict situations in the Horn of Africa, such as Somalia or the crisis between Sudan and South Sudan, makes it an indispensable partner in this region of the world.

But, beyond the historical and geopolitical reasons that justify intense bilateral relations, there is now a concrete economic interest for Italy in Ethiopia. The sustained positive trend recorded by the country in recent years (an average GDP growth of over 10% since 2004), the openness – albeit timid – to international investors, the low cost of labour, the considerable size of the market (almost 100 million people), the availability of national energy sources (hydroelectric), direct air links with Italy and, last but not least, the presence of a limited but well-integrated Italian community, represent the strong points on which to build more dynamic economic-commercial relations. Regarding trade between the two countries, according to ICE data, Italy imported €238,153 thousand worth of goods from Ethiopia in 2017, an 8% decrease compared to 2012 (International Trade Center), while the value of Ethiopian imports from Italy in 2017 was €43,731 thousand (ICE), a 9% increase compared to 2012 (ITC). Italy is the fourth largest country by value of Ethiopia’s imports (ICE, 2016).

During 2017, the Joint Declaration was also signed for the adoption of the Country Programme for Development Cooperation interventions between Italy and Ethiopia for the period 2017/19. The Country Programme envisages an Italian contribution of €125 million, of which €45 million in donations and €85 million in credits, to be allocated to development cooperation programmes in the country. The priority sectors identified are agro-industry, basic services, good governance and migration.