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Ethiopia1.0 Introduction

Usually considered as one of the oldest countries in the world, Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south.

Ethiopia became a federal state through the adoption of a new constitution in 1995. Under this system, the country is divided into nine autonomous states with sixty eight zones with two chartered cities. These states have the power of self determination and are granted the power of secession under the constitution.

As a non-oil economy, Ethiopia is growing robustly with impressive economic growth rates although poverty incidence continues to be high.

2.0 Country Snapshot

Total Land Area (000 sq. km)

1,104.3 (World Development indicators, 2009)

Population (millions)

80.83   (Population reference Bureau) 1

Urban Population
Rural Population

16        (Population reference Bureau)

Human Development Index Ranking

171    (Human Development Report, 2009)

Gender Development Rank

144      (Human Development Report, 2009)

GDP Growth (%)

11.3%  (World Development indicators, 2009)

GDP per capita , Atlas Method (Current$)

280      (World Development indicators, 2009)

Population below national poverty line (%) 2


GDP Composition

Agriculture       43%
Industry            13%
Services            45%

(World Development indicators, 2009)

Rural Access Indictor 3

32% (2004)

Transport Expenditure as a % of GDP *

11.2% (2005)


3.0 Transport and Development in Context

The current development path of the country is guided by the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASPED), a revised version of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Program (PRSP). Even though rural poverty is on the decline, poverty continues to be a rural phenomenon. Demographically, about 84% of the entire Ethiopian population live in the rural area. This is however changing due to increasing urbanisation. Agriculture which is the major source of employment accounts for about 46% of the GDP and 90% of the value of exports.

The Ethiopian economy is characterized by widespread poverty, uneven distribution of population and inadequate road network and transport services. The effects of this are weak spatial integration, predominance of isolated rural settlements and low economic activity. All these together have constrained the growth process and compounded the poverty alleviation programmes. Notwithstanding these challenges, Ethiopia has made some impressive economic and social progress. From a negative growth rate of 3.3 in 2002, the country made strong positive performances by achieving growth rates of 11.9% and 10.6% in 2003 and 2004 respectively.  Consumption poverty head count index reduced from 55% in 1995 to 36% in 2004 with most of this feat occurring in the rural areas. This is attributed to the wide-ranging and multi-faceted pro-poor programmes that have been implemented in the rural areas such as menu based extension programs to support marketization of smallholder agriculture; the food security programs; and the recent productive safety net programs among others.

Majority of the rural communities are isolated for significant portions of the year because of lack of access to reliable all-weather roads. With about 77% of rural families needing to travel more than 20km in order to access health and other basic facilities, efficient transport system will not only improve the living conditions of the people but also improve social interaction and help diversify rural economic activities. Walking and non-motorised transport are the major forms of transport in the rural areas with most journeys on foot involving an average distance of 5-6km and a time consumption of about 2 to 3 hours. Women tend to bear a disproportionate share of this burden of travelling. The gap between the urban and rural centres in relation to access to public transport is very wide with about 97% of the urban compared to 28% of the rural households having access to transport services within 5km.

In response to this, the transport development in Ethiopia is much focussed on road development as evidenced in the Road Sector Development Programme (RSDP) and the PASPED. Road infrastructure development has been given the highest priority because of its critical role in enhancing rural growth through improved delivery of agricultural inputs and connection of farmers to markets. The commitment of the state is evidenced in the expenditure pattern of the state; in 2005, government’s expenditure in the road sector was 11.2% compared to 4.8% in the health and 4.5% in water and sanitation. Under the PASPED, the government aims to increase road network by 20 000km by 2010, 90% of which will be in the rural areas. This is part of government’s effort at strengthening the infrastructure backbone of the economy as well as accelerating market-based agricultural development. Preparations have also been made to step up the Ethiopian Rural Transport Program through the construction of substantial amount of low level rural roads, and the provision and expansion of conventional and intermediate means of transport. There are measures to facilitate the participation of local contractors in road construction as a way of ensuring the sustainability of transport development.

The main challenges to transport development are raising adequate financing for the major investments required, ensuring continued maintenance, and the limited domestic construction capacity. Also poorly integrated transport system, management and communication among the federal and regional transport offices coupled with poor attention to the development of non motorized transport modes and their facilities present major challenges to the development of the sector. Finally, the shortage of transport management and planning professionals in the sector also present an enormous challenge to the sector.


4.0 Overview of the Transport Sector

Railway4 681 km (Ethiopian segment of the 781 km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad) narrow gauge: 681 km 1.000-m gauge
Road Total Length: 36,469 km
  Paved: 6,980 km
  Unpaved: 29,489 km
Airports Total: 63
  Paved: 17
  Unpaved: 46
Merchant Marine 5 Total: 9
  Cargo: 8
  Roll on/roll off 1(2008)

Source: CIA World Fact Book6      

4 note: railway is under joint control of Djibouti and Ethiopia but is largely inoperable (2008)

5 Ethiopia is a landlocked country so has no seaports

6 Available at; viewed on 14/04/10


5.0 Road Classification System

Roads in Ethiopia are functionally classified as trunk, link, main access, collector and feeder.


6.0 Institutional framework for the sector

Transport development in Ethiopia is undertaken both at national and regional levels. Transport development is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of Works and Urban Development.

The Ethiopian Road Authority ( and the Road Fund are under the authority of the Ministry of Works and Urban Development (MWUD). Most other transport functions are however undertaken by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC). 

There are also Rural Road Authorities at the regional level who oversee the development of collector and feeder roads in their respective regions.

Another relevant transport institution in Ethiopia is the Road Transport Authority (


7.0 Relevant Rural Transport Programmes

Road Sector Development Programme

The objective of the RSDP is to restore Ethiopia’s road network, which has become an obstacle to sustainable economic development, and to develop institutional capacity of the road agencies to manage their road networks properly. The RSDP provides a comprehensive framework by integrating the implementation of key road investments with major policy and institutional reforms. The RSDP is currently in its third phase since it was launched in 1997. Further information available at

Ethiopian Rural Travel and Transport Programme (ERTTP)

The Ethiopian Rural Travel and Transport Programme (ERTTP) is based on the Rural Travel and Transport Programme initiated by the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Programme under the aegis of the World Bank and supported by bilateral and multilateral donors. Further information on the programme can be obtained at


8.0 Some Key Documents and Websites

There is no overall transport policy in Ethiopia.  The transport policy document is under preparation but key drafts and other relevant documents can be found below.

Ethiopian Poverty Reduction and Transport Strategy 2007

Available at 2008/03/25/000334955_20080325070747/Rendered/PDF/430380WP0ET0PR10Box327344B01 PUBLIC1.pdf  Accessed on 09/04/2010


National Transport Master Plan Study, 2007

Available at    Accessed on 09/04/2010


Implementation Arrangement of the Ethiopian Rural Travel and Transport Program (ERTTP) Accessed on 16/04/2010


Ethiopian Roads Authority - RSDP Performance: Twelve Years Later 2009  Accessed on 16/04/2010


IMT study for Ethiopian Road Authority (Gender Rural Transport Initiative)
Accessed on 16/04/2010