Relations between Germany and Ethiopia have traditionally been good and are fostered by reciprocal high-level visits.
The 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations was celebrated in 2005. The visit by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1954 was one of the first by a Head of State to the young Federal Republic of Germany. Over the years, various Federal Presidents have visited Ethiopia (Heinrich Lübke in 1964, Roman Herzog in 1996, Horst Köhler in 2004, Joachim Gauck in 2013 and Frank-Walter Steinmeier in 2019). Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Ethiopia in 2007 and again in October 2016. Ethiopia’s then President Girma Wolde-Giorgis visited Germany in 2008, and then Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn visited Germany in December 2014. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed travelled to Berlin in October 2018. Federal Foreign Minister Maas’ first trip to Africa in early May 2018 also took him to Addis Ababa.
There are regular visits to Ethiopia by members of the German Cabinet and Members and committees of the German Bundestag.
In 2017, Germany imported goods to the value of 171.8 million euros from Ethiopia and exported goods worth 328 million euros to the country (Germany Trade and Invest figures, 2018). This represents a slight drop compared to the previous year (imports: 177.2 million euros; exports: 343.9 million euros) after a period of steady growth.
Germany is one of the largest importers of Ethiopian goods, primarily coffee and textiles, and until 2014 it was traditionally the biggest buyer of Ethiopian coffee, taking more than 30 percent of the country’s total coffee exports. The main German exports to Ethiopia are finished products such as machinery, engines, motor vehicles, chemicals and medicines. German companies have recently begun to invest in Ethiopia, especially in the flower growing and the leather processing industries. Since 2016, heavy vehicle manufacturer MAN has been selling dissembled HGV components to a customer in Ethiopia and is assisting with training and assembly. In 2017, Siemens opened its East Africa headquarters in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Airlines and DHL (minority share) set up a joint venture in 2018. Volkswagen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ethiopian Investment Commission in late January 2019.
An investment protection agreement was signed in January 2004 and entered into force in 2006.
Ethiopia is a priority country of German development cooperation. Since bilateral development cooperation began 55 years ago, Ethiopia has received a total of more than 1.25 billion euros under German technical and financial cooperation.
In coordination with the Ethiopian Government and international development partners, German development cooperation focuses on three priority areas:
- education (vocational training and higher education)
- food security and agriculture
- conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; biodiversity.
At the last round of intergovernmental negotiations in November 2017, Germany made a total of 126 million euros in new commitments under its official development cooperation for the period up to 2020.
The German Government is providing 48 million euros until 2020 for the priority area of education. This includes supporting the introduction and development of the German system of vocational training as well as promoting practice-oriented higher education in Ethiopia.
Cooperation in the priority area of food security and agriculture – so far focusing on the Ethiopian Government’s Sustainable Land Management Programme – is being stepped up with a new commitment of 66.5 million euros for the period 2017-2020 to improve drought resilience and increase agricultural productivity. This priority area is complemented by a cooperation project on agricultural policy that covers seed development, training and agriculture dialogue.
In the last priority area – conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity – the aim is to help preserve Ethiopia’s natural resources and improve the living conditions of the population by improving the conservation and use of the designated biodiversity-rich areas in the country. The German Government has pledged 17.5 million euros for this purpose.
A special focus of German development cooperation is providing sustainable support for the basic needs of refugees admitted to Ethiopia from neighbouring countries and helping them integrate into the educational system and the labour market.
In addition, Germany is providing support to international organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to help alleviate acute humanitarian emergencies in Ethiopia, such as the drought crisis of winter/spring 2017. Special funding to the tune of 86.6 million euros was pledged to fight food crises, promote drought resistance and work with refugees.
Cultural relations between the two countries are based on a long tradition of German research in Ethiopia, which has led to a number of university partnerships. Outstanding projects by German academic and scientific institutions are the South Omo Research Center, which studies the different ethnic and cultural groups in southern Ethiopia, and the compilation of a globally unique, multi-volume “Encyclopaedia Aethiopica” by Universität Hamburg. Following the sensational findings of traces of Sabean culture in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) is currently conducting an excavation campaign in Yeha which is scheduled to continue for several years. The DAI plans to open a museum in 2020.
In 2018, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supported 768 Ethiopian students and academics and also funded 164 short and long-term lectureships for German academics. In 2013, the DAAD opened an Information Centre in Addis Ababa.
Since the 2010 winter semester, German has been offered at Addis Ababa University as part of the Bachelor’s programme in Modern European Languages, in combination with Spanish, Portuguese or Italian. In September 2016, a new DAAD lector was seconded to the Addis Ababa University and since 2018 she has been supported by a language assistant. Since the winter semester of 2018, the DAAD also offers non-credit language courses at the AAU.
There are plans to offer a separate German degree course from the winter semester of 2019. The curriculum is currently being agreed by the DAAD and the AUU.
Apart from the Goethe-Institut, German is also taught at the French school Lycée Guébré-Mariam. As members of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH), the Andinet International School and the German Church School also offer extracurricular German clubs for language-learning, as do other private schools.
The DBSAA offers levels I and II of the German Language Certificate (DSD). Instruction at the school leads to the International Baccalaureate (IB).
The Goethe-Institut in Addis Ababa, set up as early as 1962, focuses its programme work on linking culture and development. Issues relating to cultural identity and the effects of modernisation and urban planning on culture and society are an important feature of its programmes. The Goethe-Institut has its own Information Centre and Language Course Department and is a founding member of the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) network in Ethiopia.