More about the bilateral relations between Switzerland and Ethiopia


Swiss scholars were interested in Ethiopia since the time of Renaissance. In the 19th Century then, missionaries and travellers started discovering the country and established relations on a people-to-people base. The most prominent Swiss citizen was Alfred Ilg, an engineer from Frauenfeld who served Emperor Menelik II from 1889 to 1907 as advisor. He had a considerable influence on Ethiopia’s foreign policy and greatly contributed to her modernisation.


With the conclusion of a Treaty on Friendship and Commerce on 24 May 1933 they were formalised for the first time. After the Italian-Ethiopian War and World War II they intensified steadily: Diplomatic relations were established on 2 May 1952. In 1955, Switzerland opened a diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa which was upgraded to an Embassy on 4 June 1962.

Swiss Community

The Swiss Community in Ethiopia has always been of relatively small size. At present, about 181 Swiss nationals are registered at the Embassy. Most of them live in the greater area of Addis Ababa, most of them are involved in development and humanitarian aid activities.

The Swiss Society in Ethiopia based in Addis Ababa is not operational for the moment.

Development and Humanitarian Aid

Development and humanitarian aid represent a major element of the bilateral relations. In spite of all progress made, the needs of the Ethiopian population are still important. Even if Ethiopia does not represent a focus of the official Swiss development cooperation, Switzerland’s commitment is substantial. It centres around three axes:

  • Humanitarian aid: many Ethiopians are still vulnerable to droughts and floods. Switzerland tries to alleviate their effects. Most of the financial resources are multilaterally channelled to international organisations, e.g. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (UNOCHA), United Nations World Food Program (WFP), or United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • Swiss NGOs present in Ethiopia: several of these organisations get core funding from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation which benefits Ethiopia too.
  • International organisations present in Ethiopia: again, Swiss contributions to international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) or the Bretton Woods-Institutions enable them to act to Ethiopia’s advantage.


In 2008, Switzerland imported goods (almost exclusively coffee) for about CHF 16 million. The exports (mainly pharmaceutical and chemical products as well as machinery) reached about CHF 29 million.

A number of Swiss companies are present on the Ethiopian market with Representative Offices which work together with Ethiopian importers.

Annual economic report of Ethiopia 2009


The network of treaties covers:

  • Friendship and commerce (1933)
  • Protection of investments (1998)
  • Air traffic (2000)
  • Science and Technology (2008)

Science and Technology

Since the 60's, an intensive exchange of information and people developed with a focus on soil and water conservation, governance, livelihoods and architecture.

Collaboration projects Switzerland – Ethiopia (PDF, Number of pages 2, 45.1 kB, English)

The cooperation was in particular supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research North-South (NCCR). So far, it allowed almost 50 young scientists from both countries to do research on a variety of topics related to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

The signing of an umbrella agreement on science and technology between Switzerland and Ethiopia on 24 November 2008 allowed to structure this cooperation further and to give it new dynamics.


The Embassy regularly supports Swiss cultural activities in Ethiopia: each year in the spring, it shows a Swiss film on the occasion of the week of Francophonie. The last cultural event it contributed to was a series of concerts given by the Swiss group the Imperial Tiger Orchestra in Addis Ababa. The band played revamped remakes from the Golden Age (1969-1978) of modern Ethiopian music.

Swiss Government scholarship for foreign students

Through the Swiss Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS), the Swiss Confederation grants each year, postgraduate excellence scholarships to foreign researchers, students and artists. The goal is to help strengthen the academic and cultural ties. Please find more information by clicking this link:

Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists

The application guidelines for foreign applicants to a Swiss University or arts scholarship for the Academic year 2013-2014, the application form and the necessary medical certificate can be downloaded under "Scholarship" in the right column above.