Ethiopia is one of Africa’s poorest states, although it has experienced rapid economic growth since the end of the civil war (1974 – 1991). It represents one of fastest growing non-oil economies in Africa. Ethiopia depends heavily on agriculture, which is often affected by drought. It is one of Africa’s leading coffee producers, which becomes a key export. Almost two-thirds of its people are illiterate.
Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country and it is second largest in terms of population. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy, it has never been colonised.
It has a unique cultural heritage, being the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a monarchy that ended only in the coup of 1974.
It served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organizations.
Ethiopia has suffered periodic droughts and famines that lead to a long civil conflict in the 20th Century and a border war with Eritrea, a country that become independent from Ethiopia in 1993, following a referendum. Poor border demarcation from these both countries developed into military conflict and full-scale war in the late 1990s in which tens of thousands of people were killed.
Many Ethiopians depend on food aid from abroad. In 2004 the government began a drive to move more than two million people away from the arid highlands of the east in an attempt to provide a lasting solution to food shortages.