Despite its history of political upheaval, Ethiopia has maintained considerable strength and resilience, especially compared with its East African neighbors.
Throughout its history, Ethiopia’s geography has enabled it to consistently assert power beyond its borders, no matter who its leaders have been.
The loss of direct access to the sea after Eritrea seceded hampered Ethiopia’s economic development; regaining control of that coastline will continue to be part of its long-term strategy.
The geographic potential for agricultural development, as well as the densely populated Ethiopian Highlands, provide the cornerstones of Ethiopia’s ability to create wealth and wield power in the future.
Among its African contemporaries, Ethiopia stands out as one of the few countries that has existed in essentially the same form since antiquity, albeit under different names. Its geographic position at the heart of the Horn of Africa has made it a crossroads for trade, helping it to maintain a continuity that has lasted from ancient times through the colonial era to today. While modern Ethiopia’s interests are much more tightly focused on its core than the far-flung reach its ancient predecessors commanded, its geography still makes it a key player in global trade and regional politics. Although its importance in international trade has diminished with technological advances in transport and a shift away from the resources it provides or conveys, exports are still a focus of its economy.
Ethiopia rose to prominence as a regional empire known as the Kingdom of Aksum in the first century A.D. The kingdom had existed for centuries prior, but it began to flourish thanks to trade between the Roman Empire and ancient India. But its growing wealth and influence wasn’t solely a function of its position along vital coastal trade routes. Rather, the core of present-day Ethiopia, and its historic predecessors, has always been the Ethiopian Highlands. The large protected area of fertile lands and major rivers became the seat of a power that would hold sway in its nearby region and beyond the continent.