Relations between Switzerland and Ethiopia focus on development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Switzerland has stepped up its humanitarian commitment due to recurring disastrous droughts and food crises. Ethiopia is covered in the Regional Strategy for the Horn of Africa 2013–2016, which coordinates all Switzerland’s activities in the region.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Ethiopia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Both countries want to intensify their bilateral relations. Switzerland is aiming to establish a regular political dialogue and to expand trade with Ethiopia.
Through the Regional Strategy for the Horn of Africa 2013–2016, Switzerland groups together and coordinates all its activities in the Horn of Africa. With the aid of the strategy, it aims to develop a coherent and effective presence in the individual countries as well as in regional and multilateral bodies.
Ethiopia is part of this regional strategy. The implementation of the strategy involves the SDC, the Directorate of Political Affairs of the FDFA, the Federal Office of Migration (FOM), the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) and the responsible Swiss representations in the region.
Trade with Ethiopia is limited. In 2012, Switzerland exported goods to the value of about CHF 28m, primarily pharmaceutical and chemical products and products of the mechanical engineering industry. Imports from Ethiopia, primarily of coffee, during the same period amounted to about CHF 34m.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Scholars and artists from Ethiopia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Specific SDC projects offer further approaches for cooperation in the field of education.
Peace promotion and human security
Switzerland’s Regional Strategy for the Horn of Africa 2013–2016 also includes measures to promote peace and human security.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland contributes to alleviating need and establishing stable sources of income and living conditions in Ethiopia. It helps the local population cope with natural events such as droughts and floods as well as with political and economic changes and to develop sustainable solutions.
On the basis of the Regional Strategy for the Horn of Africa 2013–2016, Switzerland coordinates its activities and expands its involvement in this region, including in Ethiopia.
The bulk of the financial resources of Switzerland’s humanitarian aid for Ethiopia is channelled via international organisations. Switzerland supports the activities of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) or of the World Food Programme (WFP). Since 2009, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has significantly stepped up its commitment owing to recurring food crises.
Switzerland’s short-term aid for emergency situations and reconstruction aims to achieve better living conditions over the longer term. Its programme focuses on food security, planning water and land use, as well as health care for mothers and children.
Swiss citizens in Ethiopia
At the end of 2015, there were 214 Swiss citizens living in Ethiopia. Most of them live in the greater Addis Ababa region and work in the fields of development cooperation or humanitarian aid.
The Swiss embassy in Addis Ababa regularly supports the activities of Swiss artists in Ethiopia and proomtes cultural exchanges between the two countries.
History of bilateral relations
Swiss missionaries were active in Ethiopia from the 19th century. Alfred Ilg, an engineer from Thurgau, was an advisor to the Ethiopian emperor, Menelik II from 1878. Ilg had considerable influence on the country’s foreign policy. He was the driving force behind the construction of the railway between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, thus promoting the development of the Ethiopian capital.
Switzerland and Ethiopia signed a friendship and trade agreement in 1933. The two countries strengthened relations following the Italian-Ethiopian War and World War II. Switzerland opened a diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa in 1955 which was transformed into an embassy in 1962.
Switzerland supported Ethiopia during the famines in the 1970s and 1980s.