En man och två kvinnor på väg till Arbegona Awasa i Etiopien

Bamboo producers in Sidama region become independent suppliers, can scale up their crops, get loans when necessary and make money thanks to assistance from the Fund Powering Agriculture.

Photo: Ylva Sahlstrand/Sida


Our work in Ethiopia

Updated: 1 September 2014

The Swedish cooperation with Ethiopia mainly focuses on efforts in democracy and human rights, but we also support economic and social development.

Democracy and human rights

Supporting a democratic development in Ethiopia is a challenging balance act. The political space is limited and opportunities to work with civil and political rights are restricted. The cooperation with civil society has been hampered due to the legislation that regulates international funding to local organisations.

Sweden supports both "pure" democracy initiatives through the UN Development Fund (UNDP), for the development of national democratic institutions and civil society organisations in their activities to foster rights for children, youth and women. Our cooperation mainly takes place outside government channels.

In the area of democracy and human rights, we currently support five programmes:

  • Support programme to the civil society; a joint donor programme to strengthen the organisations’ capacities.
  • Gender equality programme to support women and children's rights by strengthening women's economic empowerment and reducing gender-based violence such as female genital mutilation.
  • UN joint donor programme for gender equality and women's empowerment.
  • Cooperation programme for civil society organisations that work mainly with social and economic rights.
  • Programme for national democratic institutions to support the civil and political rights.

Economic development

In order to get Ethiopia out of the poverty trap, long-term strategies are needed to develop the nation's main occupation: agriculture. This requires better efficiency in combination with stimulations for increased entrepreneurship. Old patterns must be broken in order to create a more dynamic economy.

The ambition to maintain a high growth rate is being challenged by high inflation, low level of education and an unfavourable business climate that leads to low levels of foreign investment. Our support is designed to promote increased employment and income opportunities for poor people through the development of the private sector, including agriculture. Furthermore, we work to strengthen women's economic empowerment, contribute to an improved business environment and to strengthened land rights.

Examples of efforts in this area are:

  • Support for the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce for a better dialogue between the private and public sector.
  • Support to women entrepreneurship.
  • Support to food security through local market development, the potential for increased revenue and improved gender equality.
  • Support for the surveying education to secure people's rights to land in rural areas.
  • Support for reforms that benefit the investment climate for the private sector.

Social development

In the Ethiopian health sector, we have chosen to prioritize targeted millennium development goals interventions through the UN system. We focus on children’s and women's rights and gender equality, and we work in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to improve maternal health. There have been significant advances in Ethiopia's social sector and there is a strong political will for change, especially regarding maternal and child health. However, Ethiopia is still one of the countries in the world with the highest maternal mortality rate. Despite ambitious efforts there is little chance to reach the millennium development goal number 5 of reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.

Having access to midwifery and obstetric care plays a crucial role in reducing maternal mortality. Sida supports a programme for maternal and infant health care, through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). More midwives have received training, which is today conducted in over 30 schools. This has resulted in a twofold increase in the number of midwives in recent years. We also support the establishment of fistula* clinics around the country.

The Swedish support to the UNICEF programme for universal primary education and gender equality ended in late 2012. The initiative focused on girls’ and vulnerable children’s access to education. The programme has shown very good results.


Support for higher education and research is seen as one of several important prerequisites for democratization. The aim is to promote research and postgraduate education, develop higher education and develop institutional capacity to strengthen the university system. The objective is for Ethiopia to eventually be able to conduct its own research in accordance with international standards and quality.

Each country has its own unique conditions for development and economic growth. It is therefore essential for every country to establish its own ways to generate and maintain expertise and knowledge in key areas.

The Swedish support to the Addis Ababa University for research in the social sector is essential to increase capacity, and it follows the needs established in Ethiopia's own development plan. The direction of the research has shifted to focus on thematic areas including food safety and public health.

Examples of Sida-funded assistance:

  • Master's and PhD studies at Addis Ababa University in collaboration with Swedish and international partners.
  • Research on infectious diseases such as tuberculosis at the Armuer Hansen Research Institute in Addis Ababa.


* Fistula is a complication that may occur when young women give birth and the baby gets stuck and causes lesions in the abdomen. Fistula is an extensive problem in Ethiopia due to the custom of genital mutilation and the fact that 90 per cent of women give birth at home without medically trained personnel.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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