Facts and Statistics
Location: Eastern Africa, west of Somalia
Capital: Addis Ababa
Climate: tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation
Population: 82,544,840 (July 2008 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4% (1994 census)
Religions: Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8% (1994 census)
Government: federal republic
Language in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has many indigenous languages (84 according to the Ethnologue, 77 according to the 1994 census), most of them Afro-Asiatic (Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic), plus some that are Nilo-Saharan.
English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools and universities. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya.
After the fall of the Derg regime in 1991, the new constitution of the Federal Demeocratic Republic of Ethiopia granted all ethnic groups the right to develop their languages and to establish mother tongue primary education systems. This is a marked change to the language policies of previous governments in Ethiopia.
Society and Culture
Ethiopia is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country. Religion is a major influence in Ethiopian life. Nearly half the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church but there is a also large Muslim population. Others adhere to an ancient form of Judaism.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is proud of its origins. The country embraced Christianity in the 4th century, long before Europe. The feast of the Epiphany ("Timkat") is the largest festival of the year. The Orthodox Church dominates the political, cultural, and social life of the population. It was the official religion of the imperial court and of the establishment until Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974.
Muslims are important in the business community. They tend to live in the eastern, southern, and western lowlands, although there are considerable numbers in Addis Ababa.
The extended family remains the focus of the social system. It includes relatives on both sides of the family as well as close friends. Quite often the husband’s parents will live with the nuclear family when they get older and can no longer care for themselves. When people marry, they join their families, thus ensuring that there will always be a group to turn to in times of need.
Individuals achieve recognition or social standing through their extended family. A family's honor is influenced by the actions of its members. Family needs are put before all other obligations, including business.
Etiquette and Customs in Ethiopia
Gift Giving Etiquette
Business Etiquette and Protocol
Ethiopians can be very sensitive when it comes to communication. Since they have only recently begun working with foreigners in business situations they are still getting used to new ways of doing business and communicating.
As a general rule, they are humble and respect that quality in others. They generally speak in soft tones. Loud voices are seen as too aggressive. Ethiopians pride themselves on their eloquent speaking style and expect others to speak clearly and use metaphor, allusion, and witty innuendoes. They often use exaggerated phrases to emphasize a point.
As a rule, Ethiopians tend to be non-confrontational and offer what they believe is the expected response rather than say something that might embarrass another. Honour and dignity are crucial to Ethiopians and they will go out of their way to keep from doing something that could bring shame to another person. Therefore, it is important to treat your Ethiopian business colleagues with utmost professionalism and never do anything that would make them lose dignity and respect.
Meeting schedules are not very rigid in Ethiopia. There may be an agenda, although it is not part of the local culture. If one is used, it functions as a guideline for the discussion and acts as a springboard to other related business topics.
Since relationships are extremely important, meetings start with extended social pleasantries. You will be offered tea or coffee and will be expected to ask questions about the other person and respond to questions about yourself.
Meetings seldom have a scheduled ending time since it is considered more important to complete the meeting satisfactorily than be slavishly tied to the clock. The meeting will end when everyone has had their say and the most senior Ethiopians decide that there is nothing left to be discussed.
Performing favours indicates friendship. Therefore, Ethiopians feel obliged to do something if asked by a friend. Since they generally only conduct business with people they consider friends, they have difficulty saying "no" to requests from business associates. This does not indicate that they will do what they have agreed to do, however.
Being a Manager in Ethiopia
The business set up in Ethiopia is formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you adopt a formal demeanor and demonstrate deference to position, age, and rank. It is almost a cultural imperative to develop a personal relationship prior to conducting business. Any attempt to by-pass or rush what can be a time-consuming process could severely limit business success.
Patience is a necessary attribute to successful cross cultural management. Never appear irritated by the time it takes to get things done. Things generally take much longer than expected. It often requires several meetings to accomplish what could be handled by a telephone call at home.
The government exerts great influence in the business sector, particularly in matters pertaining to contracts and non-Ethiopian companies. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain cordial contact with government officials and agencies.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural management will be more effective if newcomers to the Ethiopian management style study carefully the corporate culture of specific companies because they may vary from being hierarchical to rather egalitarian. Consequently, employees will range from feeling empowered to speak out in the management process, to those who believe it is most important to simply execute the instructions by their leadership.
Approach to Change
Ethiopia’s intercultural competence and readiness for risk is low. Ethiopia is a low risk and low change-tolerant culture. New projects will be carefully analyzed to assure that whatever risk they represent is thoroughly understood and addressed.
In order for change to take hold, the idea needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is important with Ethiopia’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Ethiopia is a moderate time culture and typically and there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.
When working with people from Ethiopia, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
Business is extremely hierarchical and employees are expected to show proper deference and respect towards those in superior positions. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions.
As in many other relationship-driven cultures, Ethiopians do not strictly separate their personal and work lives. Managers often adopt a paternalistic role with their subordinates. They provide advice, listen to problems, and mediate disputes, both personal and business.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Ethiopia, it is important to remember that honor and reputation play an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate fully that their participation is desired.
When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is required. It is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed. If someone is exposed and embarrassed, they may likely not participate again, and it will stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.
Praise should be given to the entire group, and not to individuals.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
The social side of business is very important. Many companies are family-owned and therefore, extremely hierarchical. In most companies the highest ranking person makes decisions. Although negotiations may be conducted with lower-level staff, they are seldom granted full authority to make commitments for the company.
Most business dealings involve the government in some fashion, which further lengthens the decision making since the ministers of several departments must often give approval. Do not criticize anyone publicly. It is important that you do not cause your Ethiopian business associates to lose dignity and respect.
When granting a concession, do so with great reluctance and make it conditional on a concession from your Ethiopian counterparts. Delivery dates and deadlines are considered estimates rather than firm commitments since only God knows what the future holds.
Links and Resources about Ethiopia
* Currency - the currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB). Use the free currency converter to compare to USD, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Ethiopia .
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code is +251.
* Time – Ethiopia is +3 hours GMT.
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