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Finland’s development cooperation in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an important regional player that brings stability in an otherwise turbulent Horn of Africa. Ethiopia participates in African peacekeeping operations and receives the largest number of refugees in Africa. Finland and Ethiopia have conducted development cooperation since 1967. Finland’s bilateral support to Ethiopia in 2015 is about 14 million euros. 

Country Strategy for Development Cooperation with Ethiopia 2014-2017 (PDF)

Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries, but also one of the fastest growing economies- In recent years, the economy has grown by about 8 per cent per annum.

Ethiopia’s economy is based largely on agriculture. More than 80 per cent of the country’s nearly 90 million inhabitants live in rural areas.

Ethiopia’s ranking on the UN Human Development Index (HDI) measuring wellbeing has improved, which indicates the Government’s strong commitment to eradicating poverty.

The Government has invested in education, health, and water supply and sanitation. Poverty is still a major problem, however, and Ethiopia will remain one of the world’s largest recipient countries of development assistance in the coming years.

Etiopia; koulu
Mulugeta Gedle School located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa has deaf pupils who follow the lessons through sign language interpreting. Photo: Outi Einola-Head.

Millennium Development Goals in Ethiopia

Attainment of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals has an important place in Ethiopia’s development plans.  It seems that Ethiopia will reach six Millennium Development Goals on time in 2015. The goals of clean water and education have already been achieved (UNDP Report 2012). Only the goal of maternal health is still far beyond reach.

Attainment of these goals has been spurred by the positive economic development of the past few decades. More than 65 per cent of public expenditure has been used to reduce poverty, being spent for education, water supply and sanitation, agriculture, roads and energy.  Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals is also included in national development plans.

The goal a carbon-neutral middle-income country

Development cooperation between Finland and Ethiopia is based on Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). Ethiopia has the vision of becoming a middle-income country and a carbon-neutral economy by 2025.

In line with the Country Strategy, Finland’s development cooperation focuses on three sectors: education, water supply and sanitation, and rural economic development.  

The Strategy emphasises the broad participation of all players in the development processes that affect them, and everyone’s access to services.

NGOs support Ethiopia’s development at grassroots level by developing, among others, education, health and rural areas.

Finland supports local NGOs’ grassroots work and the development of Ethiopia’s civil society through the Local Cooperation Fund (LCF). The LCF has provided support to the human rights, democracy and environmental sectors and to equality work, education and special groups, such as persons with disabilities and pastoral communities.

A major share of Finland’s development assistance to Ethiopia is channelled through the EU and multilaterally through international organisations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the UN.

Implementation of development cooperation

Finland’s objectives:

  • to reduce poverty especially among small-holder farmers by improving access to markets, processing methods and storage facilities
  • to support rural Ethiopians’ economic wellbeing by promoting sustainable use of natural resources and improved land tenure security
  • to enhance the quality of general education and teacher training, and to support children with special educational needs
  • to improve the coverage of rural water supply and sanitation services, and to alter hygiene behaviour patterns.

Finland’s support:

Water sector:

  • COWASH: Support to Community-Led Accelerated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2011–2016: 22 million
  • FinnWASH: Rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme 2009–2015: 11.4 million euros

Education sector:

  • General Education Quality Improvement Programme 2009–2013: 19.9 million euros, 2014–2017: 19.8 million euros
  • Support to Special Needs Education 2013–2017: 2 million euros

Rural Economic Development:

  • Support to Land Administration, REILA project 2011–2016: 12.8 million euros
  • Support for Agro-Business Induced Growth, Agro-BIG Programme 2012–2015: 9.3 million euros

Local Cooperation Fund (LCF): about 500,000 euros a year

Support channelled through Finnish NGOs: about 2 million euros a year.


  • The best results have been achieved for cooperation in the water sector. Since 1990, Ethiopians have built more than 12,500 water points, giving three million people access to clean water.  The water points have been durable and of high quality. Sanitation services have been made available to 1.4 million people.

  • Finland has developed a model for water programmes that ensures sustainability. Ethiopia provides at least half of the financing and local communities together save the necessary nest egg. Villagers build and maintain the wells themselves. A well and sanitation cost a community resident about 10 euros. The model has proved to be so effective that other donors and the Government of Ethiopia have copied it in their own activities.

  • Over 90 per cent of Ethiopian children start the first class at age 7. This result was achieved by making basic education free of charge, by building more schools and by increasing teacher training.In addition, school books are increasingly available and teacher training has improved.

  • Cooperation benefits some 21 million comprehensive school aged pupils, nearly half of them girls. The bilateral special educational needs project (2013–2017) has provided training for over 7,000 teachers.

  • Increasing numbers of children with disabilities or other special support needs attend school in Ethiopia. During the past five years, the number of pupils with special needs has almost doubled. However, the majority of Ethiopian children with learning disabilities are not in school yet.

  • The weakest results have been obtained for cooperation in the rural sector. The rural development project progressed more slowly than expected in 2014. After initial delays, the project is now under way, and there are signs of improvement in its results.

Citizens’ participation is important for continuity

The Constitution of Ethiopia recognises civil and political rights and freedoms, and the country has ratified most of the major international human rights conventions. In Ethiopia, economic and cultural rights have been realised but there are many shortcomings with regard to civil and political rights. The position of journalists is weak and freedom of expression is non-existent.

Among others, changes in Ethiopia’s administrative structures and staff turnover pose risks to the implementation of development cooperation between Finland and Ethiopia; these could weaken commitment to cooperation.

These risks are reduced, for example, through continuous dialogue, policy discussion and the strengthening of local government, thus simultaneously promoting citizens’ participation in development processes.

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