India & Ethiopia: Sugar-Sweet

The Vice President, Shri Mohd. Hamid Ansari  meeting the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chairperson of African Union, Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, during 50th Anniversary of African Union/OASU,  in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 25, 2013.

Sugar, spices and coffee. Culture, commerce and capacity building. These are strands that compose the tapestry of India’s blossoming relations with Ethiopia, the emerging East African dynamo, home of a proud ancient civilisation and the headquarters of the African Union.

In many ways, India’s multi-faceted ties with Ethiopia form a microcosm of India’s dynamic partnership with a resurgent African continent which pivots around Three Ts: Trade, Training, and Technology. Capacity development and developmental cooperation are the twin pillars of the burgeoning India-Ethiopia cooperation.

Development Partnership

If India has technology and expertise, Ethiopia has resources, enterprise and hard-working people. This winning blend is reflected in India-Ethiopia partnership in the sugar industry. India’s lines of credit worth $640 million has upgraded and transformed Ethiopia’s sugar industry. This has tangibly impacted the economy of Ethiopia as the country, which spent millions of dollars on exporting sugar, is on the verge of becoming an importer of sugar.

The success of the partnership in the sugar industry and in other developmental projects have generated enormous goodwill for India in Ethiopia. At over US$ 1 billion, Ethiopia is the single biggest recipient of Indian LOCs in Africa. Besides $640 million soft loans for setting up three sugar factories in Ethiopia, other LOC-assisted projects include $ 65 million for a power transmission and distribution project and US $ 300 million for a Railway Line Project that connects Asaita in Ethiopia to Tadjourah port in Djibouti.

Business Bonding

Economically, the two countries are getting intwined in a web of burgeoning trade and investment. Bilateral trade has exceeded $1 billion. India has also emerged as one of the top three foreign investors in Ethiopia, with approved Indian investments estimated to be around $4 billion. About 48% of Indian companies are in manufacturing and 21% in agriculture.

“The relationship between India and Ethiopia is blossoming. This is manifested in several way — the Line of Credit, the growing Indian investment. There are close to 620-plus investors who have invested in Ethiopia in various projects,” Ethiopian ambassador to India Gennet Zewide said in an interview.

Capacity Building

While commerce, business and development remain key facets of India-Ethiopia cooperation, it’s in the area of knowledge partnership and people-to-people contacts that the relationship has acquired a new resonance. India’s signature project, pan-Africa e-network, is working successfully, with the Tele-Education Centre at Addis Ababa University and the Tele-Medicine Centre at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa changing the lives of Ethiopians. Educational exchanges remain as robust as ever with the number of training slots under ITEC going up to above 200 in 2014 -15.

Culture & People-to-People

The burgeoning India-Ethiopia ties are complemented by around 6,000 people of Indian origin and expat Indians who have made this vibrant country their home.

The people-to-people bonding started decades ago when Gujarati traders pitched their tent in Ethiopia. Over the years, Indian teachers emerged as the most visible face of the Indian community. Generations of Ethiopians recall fondly their memories of being taught by Indian teachers and professors. In fact, every tenth Indian in Ethiopia is an academic professional and every third Indian works for an Indian investor.

Cultural bonding remains as strong as ever as Bollywood blends well with the infectious lilts of Ethiopian music. The inaugural edition of the Indo-Ethiopian Film Festival held in June 2014 at the Addis Ababa University elicited an enthusiastic response.


(This article was first published in – the official website of India-Africa Forum Summit-III)


India-Ethiopia relations



Bilateral Trade: $1 billion +

Investment: Approved Indian investments estimated to be around &4 billion

LOC/Indian projects:

US$ 640 million for development of three sugar factories

US $ 65 million for a power transmission and distribution project under rural electrification programme

US $ 300 million for a Railway Line Project (sector Asaita in Ethiopia to Tadjourah port in Djibouti). Cooperation

Diaspora/Indian community: Around 6000 Indians


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First Joint Commission between India and Ethiopia


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