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ethiopia-mapPopulation: 91,728,849

HDI ranking: 173/187

HDI score: 0.396

Ethiopia was a centralized country under emperor rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the past two decades, Ethiopia has experienced two rounds of decentralization that has led to changes in political, fiscal and administrative areas (USAID, 2010).

Local governance at a glance

  • Ethiopia is a federal republic with five administrative tiers: federal, regional, zonal, district (woredas), and kebele (village areas) (IFPRI, 2011).
  • There are nine regional governments and two city administrations. At the zonal level (below the regional level), cabinets are appointed by the regional government in all but one zone. At the woreda level in rural areas, representative councils are directly elected by local people. Representative councils appoint executive and judicial bodies in woredas and city administrations (USAID, 2010).
  • Ethiopia does not have legislative gender quotas (IDEA, 2012). However, the current rule for the running party provides for a 30% quota.

Civil society actors include

  • Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy (VECOD)  promotes awareness on democratic citizenship, democratic governance and leadership. VECOD provides training courses on leadership, civic education and management skills (VECOD, n.d.).
  • The Ethiopian International Institute for Peace & Development (EIIPD) offers civic and voter education trainings that discuss concepts of democracy, indicators of democratic governance, the incorporation of international human rights instruments in the Ethiopian Constitution, and participatory politics, elections and gender equality in governance (EIIPD, 2014).

Capacity building institutions

  • The Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU) conducts research, offers consultancy services and academic training on decentralization, local economic development, municipal finance, public service delivery and good governance to build the capacities of public administration at both the federal and regional government level (ECSU, 2010).
  • The Promoting Basic Services Program is a joint program implemented in 2006 by the Ethiopian government and development partners that improves access to basic services, strengthens the “decentralized public financial management system,” and creates avenues for citizens to provide feedback on service delivery to local administrators (World Bank, 2013).

Fiscal control

  • Regional and district-level governments receive block grant transfers from the next higher level of government, and is the most important source of financing for them. “The federal block grant transfer is given for addressing the vertical imbalances in revenue versus expenditure assignments between the federal and regional administrations” (World Bank, 2008).
  • The allocation of federal funds are based on regional needs and revenue potential, and vary by region. Grants from the federal government are distributed based on population, development indicators, regional tax efforts and poverty indicators (USAID, 2010).
  • “The devolution of expenditure responsibilities started in 1993/94 with a big push, when 45 percent of the overall government budget was transferred to the regions. Since then (…) the recurrent budget tripled in ten years, from 2.3 billion to 7.9 billion and now accounts for 72 percent of the regional budget” (World Bank, 2008).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • In 1992, Ethiopia’s transitional government initiated decentralization by devolving “significant administrative responsibilities” to regions, giving them “substantial discretionary authority” to implement policies made by the central government (IFPRI, 2011).
  • In the first phase, a four-tier governance structure (center, regions, zones, and districts) was created. The regional governments were made responsible for delivering public services such as education and health (World Bank, 2008).
  • “Massive decentralization of fiscal resources” to the regions took place in 1994 and to the woredas between 2002 and 2003. This improved the delivery of basic services (World Bank, 2008).
  • In 2002 and 2003 district governments in four of the largest regions were given more responsibility over public goods and services, and planning and budgeting (IFPRI, 2011).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Many districts lack capacity, skilled personnel for administration, and infrastructure to support transformation with water, electricity, and communication networks. Capacity building of local government should keep being implemented with increased capital budget (World Bank, 2008).
  • District administrations “rely almost exclusively on unconditional block grants from regional governments. About 90 percent of these grants are spent on salaries and operational costs”, leaving little for investment of service delivery. More funding to lower tiers of government is necessary (World Bank, 2008).
  • Revenue collection is still centralized, while expenditures are decentralized, giving the central government more leverage over regional spending (USAID, 2010).

List of sources:

Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU), 2010:

Ethiopian International Institute for Peace & Development (EIIPD), 2014:

International Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), 2012: “Ethiopia.”

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2011, Cohen, M. and M. Lemma: “Agricultural Extension Services and Gender Equality.”

United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 2010: “Comparative Assessment of Decentralization in Africa: Ethiopia Desk Study.”

Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy (VECOD), n.d.:

World Bank, 2008, Garcia, M. and A. Rajkumar: “Achieving Better Service Delivery through Decentralization in Ethiopia.”

World Bank, 2013: “Q&A: Ethiopia’s Promoting Basic Services (PBS) III Program.”