Ethiopia Population and Language

Next to Nigeria, Ethiopia is Africa’s most populous country. Population growth is high; In 2016, the population exceeded the 100 million mark. Of a large number of ethnic groups, the oromos are estimated to be the most, although they are divided into subgroups. The Amharas, and the related tigers, have historically been state-carrying people.

Ethiopia Population Forecast

The vast majority of Ethiopians live in the countryside, especially in the highlands where the soil is fertile, the rainfall is good and the climate pleasant. Addis Ababa is the only really big city; the country’s second city is slightly smaller than Gothenburg. Nearly four out of ten Ethiopians are under 15 years of age.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Ethiopia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.

Ethiopia completed its third census in 2007 with the help of about 100,000 school teachers. At that time over 80 groups of people were registered, of which 10 consisted of over a million individuals. Oromos, Amharas and Tigranes together made up two-thirds of the population. Since 1995, the country has nine ethnically defined states with far-reaching autonomy (see Political system). Some are clearly dominated by a people group, while the “state of the southern nations, nationalities and peoples” officially has around 50 ethnic groups.

The Oromo people were previously concentrated in the southern highlands but have spread to different regions. Formerly they were called bile, which was an Amharic desert name. Among the oromos, some believe that in practice they have long been exposed to colonization of the Amharas. In the 1970s, oromos were forbidden to publish or teach in their own language.

Oromo speaks a Cushitic language. So do the Somali Somalis, who live in Ogaden in the south-east, and the Afars (formerly called danakil) who live at the border with Djibouti in the northeast.

The Amharas live mainly in the central highlands but are scattered throughout Ethiopia, as the former emperor’s military and official class were Amharas. The Tigers live mainly in Tigray in the north and in the neighboring country Eritrea. Both Amharic (Amharinja) and Tigrinya (Tigrinja) are closely related to the ancient Semitic language ge’ez, which was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Aksum (see Ancient History). Ge’ez is still used as a liturgical language in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Linguistically, Semitic and Cushitic languages ​​are two branches of the large Afro-Asian language family. Some minor languages ​​spoken mainly in western Ethiopia belong to another language family, the Nilo-Saharan. Amharic and Tigrinese are written with their own alphabet, while, for example, Oromo mainly uses Latin letters.

Amharic is the official language and together with English the federal administration’s official language. In the past, Amharic dominated all administration, but the states now have the right to choose their own language. Other languages ​​also gain ground in teaching and media. In 2020, the government decided that four languages ​​should be classified as working languages: afan oromo, afar, somali and tigrinska.

People’s migration and refugee streams

Internal conflicts, forced displacement and drought during the 1970s and 1980s created large population movements. The vast majority of the 2.5 million Ethiopians who fled to neighboring countries have returned, but of the highly educated who fled to the United States and Europe, many have remained there.

The troubled situation on the Horn of Africa has created new migrations. In the past, refugees came to Ethiopia mainly from Somalia and Eritrea, but since the mid-2010s, refugee flows from the war-ravaged South Sudan have also reached the country.

During the second half of the 2010 century, especially after the change of government in the spring of 2018, violent violence, often with ethnic origin, has created refugee flows, both out of the country and within it. Nearly three million Ethiopians were forced to leave their homes in 2018, a year when Ethiopia was the country with the most internally displaced people in the world. According to the UN, 1.4 million people fled from ethnic conflicts in the western part of the country during the first half of 2018. People also fled from ethnic strife at the border between Somalidel State and Oromia, from the country’s south and from conflicts between Amharas and Tigreans further north.



oromo 34.5%, amharas 26.9%, Somalis 6.2%, tigreans 6.1%, sidama 4.1%, guragie 2.5%, welaita 2.3%, hadiya 1.7%, afar 1, 7%, gamo 1.5%, other 12.5% (Census 2007) 1

Number of residents

104 957 438 (2017)

Number of residents per square kilometer

105 (2017)

Percentage of residents in the cities

20.3 percent (2017)


31.8 per 1000 residents (2016)


6.8 per 1000 residents (2016)

Population growth

2.5 percent (2017)

Fertility rate

4.2 number of births per woman (2016)

Percentage of women

50.1 percent (2017)

Life expectancy

65 years (2016)

Life expectancy for women

67 years (2016)

Life expectancy for men

64 years (2016)


Amharic (Amarinja) is an official language, English is also common in official contexts, in addition to spoken oromo, Tigrinya (Tigrinya), Somali, Afaric and several other languages.

  1. no subsequent censuses have been carried outSources



Opposition leaders are arrested

Opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa is arrested again, accused of violating the terms of his pardon (see July 2007). The life sentence against her comes into effect again.


The UN border force is taken home

The UN Security Council decides to put down the peacekeeping operation Unmee, which oversaw the disputed border with Eritrea.


Mengistu is sentenced to death

The dictator Mengistu is sentenced to death after his life sentence (see January 2007) has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Mengistu is sentenced in his absence when he is in Zimbabwe. Twenty-five co-defendants get their sentences sentenced to death. Of them, all but two are in Ethiopian prison.

Ethiopia Population and Language

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