Ethiopia has leveraged its historical aesthetics and charm to generate modern-day economic prosperity
The ability to remain current and relevant in an ever-changing world is a challenge that all companies, countries, and even individuals, struggle to achieve. But as one of the oldest hosts of human life on the planet, Ethiopia thrives as a visitor destination as a result of its historical aesthetics and charm.
Located in the so-called Horn of Africa to the east, it is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second most populated country on the continent; situated in a – literally – scorching cauldron of culture, tradition, religion and – progressively – business.
The mountainous terrain and vast landscapes aren’t what you’d ordinarily associate with the notion of urban infrastructure; each of its cities – including the capital, Addis Ababa – sprawled across undulating, picturesque backdrops. However, as an age-old inhabited land trying to turn its hand to modern infrastructural evolution, the overall balance serves up a treat for fortunate travellers.
On the tourism side, the appeal comes from the former untouched, natural elements that best typify the country. However, for the growing business travel segment, the organic aesthetics are increasingly becoming an added bonus to the economic opportunities that await.
And it’s certainly not as if the country is abandoning its roots in order to promote urbanisation. Rather, Ethiopia is optimising its reputation for agricultural prevalence to bridge the gap between the country and the rest of the world.
Facts and figures
Area: 1.1 million square kilometres
Population (2016): 102.4 million
GDP (2017): $195.8 billion
Currency: Birr (ETB)
Chief among its exports remains the produce that Ethiopia is most famous for. As the birthplace of the coffee bean, the country still produces more coffee than any other nation on the continent; a continent that is renowned for its prowess in the sector.
Broadening the analysis further, agriculture actually accounts for as much as 85 percent of the entire labour force, and while – inevitably – much of these operations are conducted by SMEs and small-scale farmers, there is a greater economic significance that derives from its success.
Purely by having such an influential international export, the country’s GDP achieves sustainability which, in turn, has a positive knock-on effect on the wider economy and the overall development of infrastructure outside of the agricultural domain.
Especially in more urbanised areas, and Addis Ababa above all, the urban districts that now exist are comparable to any cities you would find in the west or in South Africa, facilitating an ever-expanding swathe of visitors entering the country for business purposes.
Natural agriculture and energy resources have driven the country’s international appeal so much, in fact, that Ethiopia has had to introduce one of the continent’s most expansive and recognised airlines in order to cement this connection with the rest of the world.
Ethiopian Airlines is a familiar presence in London, New York, Paris and any other major economic heavyweight you’d care to think of and, complemented by its equally extensive domestic network, it is the perfect indictment of how far Ethiopia has come on the global stage.
Out and About
When looking at the country from a business travel perspective, Ethiopian Airlines’ significance shines through even more prominently. While the country does inevitably have appeal as a tourist destination, the majority of visitors entering the country each year do so with tourist landmarks as a bonus in mind, rather than as the primary objective.
Instead, business is often the reason for travel in the first place, and the major cities have responded in kind by creating a concerted – albeit authentic – offering across areas of hospitality, cuisine, leisure and transport.
For those with plenty of time on their hands, the natural aspects are still the most spectacular feature of Ethiopia however. Its mountains, jungles, rivers, caves and UNESCO World Heritage Sites may be a far cry from the boardroom but are not as far geographically as you might think.
Addis Ababa itself is situated on the cusp of such natural settings while urbanisation to the north and south are similarly engulfed by pursuits that can quickly take you off the beaten track.
In the north, Axum, Lalibela, Bahir Da and Gondar edge you closer to the stunning Simien Mountains, while in the South, Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Araba Minch and Jinka are just a stone’s throw from indigenous Ethiopian tribal villages.
Once again capitalising on its own make-up, some of Ethiopia’s leading businesses to keep in mind prior to your visit, include tour operators. Air Tour Kenya, FKLM Tours, Habesha Tours & Travel, Grand East Africa Eco Tour, Travel Ethiopia and Elmi Tours are just a select few – and the cream of the crop – on hand to guide you off the streets, and into the wilderness.
If a restaurant, bar and five-star accommodation are preferable to a barbecue, campfire and tent, then not to worry, there are plenty of those too.
Predominantly staying true to its local traditions once again, cuisine embraces a mixture of meat, vegetables and spices and the national dish, Injera, is a must try!
Peak city life is saved for the country’s urban accommodation though. As the aforementioned deluge of international visitors continue to grace the country’s shores, a host of market-leading hotel chains are responding with an offering up there with the best in Africa.
Source africa outlook mag