France and Ethiopia


Political relations

The visit of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister to France in October 2018 and the French President to Ethiopia on 12 and 13 March 2019 considerably strengthened the bilateral relationship. These visits also highlighted three key fields of cooperation for the coming years: economic, military and cultural cooperation.

French presence

Embassy of France: Addis Ababa
Consulate of France: Embassy Consular Section
French community in Ethiopia: 1,051 (September 2019)
Ethiopian community in France: about 3,000


Visits to Ethiopia by a President of the French Republic: 12-13 March 2019 (state visit of Emmanuel Macron); 25 May 2013 (50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (AU) – François Hollande); 30 January 2011 (African Union Summit – Nicolas Sarkozy).

Visits to France by an Ethiopian Prime Minister: 29 October 2018 (working visit – Abiy Ahmed); December 2015 (COP21 – Hailemariam Desalegn); 6-7 December 2013 (Élysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa – Hailemariam Desalegn); 18-19 April 2013 (working visit – Hailemariam Desalegn).

Visits to Ethiopia by French ministers: Minister of Culture (September 2019); Minister of the Economy and Finance (July 2019); Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (June 2018); Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs (February 2016); Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad (December 2015); Minister of State for Development and Francophonie (April 2015).

Visits to France by Ethiopian ministers: Minister of Defence (28-31 January 2020, Lemma Megersa); Deputy Prime Minister (21 October 2019, working visit, Demeke Mekonnen); Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (December 2017, One Planet Summit); Minister of Education (November 2017, UNESCO General Conference); Minister of Transport (March 2016 and January 2017); Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (December 2015, COP21).


Ambassador of France to Ethiopia: Mr Frédéric Bontems
Ambassador of Ethiopia to France: Henok Teferra Shawl

Economic relations

Relations between France and Ethiopia have grown closer over the past five years. In 2018, bilateral trade between the two countries was €655 million, down 33% on 2017, due to the combined drop in French exports (down 26% to €615 million) and imports (down 5% to €38 million). The trade balance produces a structural surplus for France (€580 million in 2018). Ethiopia is now France’s fifth-largest export market and its second-largest trade surplus in sub-Saharan African. Ethiopian Airlines is a customer of Airbus, from which it purchases A350 aircraft, and in July 2019, a new Marseille-Addis Ababa route was opened.

In 2018, French exports were concentrated in two main sectors: transport equipment and pharmaceuticals. French imports from Ethiopia have been falling steadily since 2015, made up 81% of agricultural products, mainly raw coffee.

France is among the main European investors, after the United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands. At the beginning of 2019, 57 French companies were present in Ethiopia, employing almost 4,900 people.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

In the cultural field, France has pledged to support the renovation and promotion of the cave churches of Lalibela. A multi-disciplinary French team has been formed, led by an architect-in-chief of historic monuments (ACMH), and is working in liaison with local and national Ethiopian authorities and clergy, as well as UNESCO. Initial funding of €1 million from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is dedicated to technical studies.

With a view to opening the site to the public soon, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Expertise France are also involved in the renovation of the Jubilee Palace, the last palace of Emperor Haile Selassie and current seat of the Ethiopian Presidency.

Beyond these three key projects, the Alliance Française branch in Addis Ababa (Alliance Éthio-Française, AEF) and that in Dire Dawa are the key centres of France’s soft power policy in Ethiopia. In addition to cultural cooperation, these two branches support the Embassy in implementing the “Francophone nursery” project, aimed at networking public and private establishments offering French teaching. These partner establishments, signatories of a tripartite cooperation agreement with the Embassy and the AEF in Addis Ababa or Dire Dawa, are eligible for a quality label for teaching of French as a foreign language (Qualité FLE).

Moreover, the Lycée Guébré Mariam French school supports Francophone influence in Ethiopia. Its Franco-Ethiopian status is based on the 1966 agreement signed by General de Gaulle and Emperor Haile Selassie. The school is accredited by the French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport, managed by the French Secular Mission (MLF) and operates under a contract with the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE).

Scientific cooperation between France and Ethiopia is centred around the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE), specialized in humanities and social sciences, archaeology and palaeontology.

Concerning academic cooperation, our work primarily involves promoting higher studies in France. For the year 2018-2019, the Embassy of France in Ethiopia awarded seven PhD grants (including five for research themes covered by the CFEE and two in linguistics, relating to our work to promote and widen the use of French in Ethiopia).

Other cooperation

In the military field, Ethiopia is aware of the benefits of developing our bilateral cooperation. A defence cooperation agreement was signed in March 2019 during the French President’s visit, providing a legal framework for sending French troops to Ethiopia and vice versa.

Furthermore, France has undertaken to support the reconstruction of an Ethiopian navy. A French cooperation officer has been seconded to work with the naval chief of staff for that purpose. Specific training has now been planned, and a place has been reserved at France’s Naval Academy for a senior Ethiopian Navy officer. Letters of intent have also been signed for closer ties with two other armed forces (army and air force). Other cooperation activities continue, such as French-language lessons for military officers and structural reinforcement of the Ethiopian International Peacekeeping Training Center (EIPKTC).

Updated 18 February 2020