Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation on the African continent, and one of the oldest in the world. This has resulted in a country that takes fierce pride in its traditions, and in its resilience.
The government of Ethiopia is structured as a parliamentary republic. The prime minister is head of government, and appointed by the party in power following general elections. Parliament consists of a 108 seat House of Federation appointed by state assemblies, and a 547 seat House of Peoples Representatives directly elected by the people.
Ethiopia is divided into nine regions, and two chartered cities. Those, in turn, are divided into kililoch (zones), then woreda (subdivisions), and then kebele (neighborhoods). Each of these administrative levels has recordkeeping, governing officials, and some control over laws and allocations. Affiliation with and registration in a kebele is necessary in order to procure identification in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia's two charter cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, are governed independently of the national system.
Ethiopia's economy is largely an agricultural one, with subsistence farming accounting for 80% of employment in the country. As a result, national economic health and growth can be heavily reliant on weather conditions, and effective farming practices. Coffee is the chief exported crop. Livestock is also widely cultivated in Ethiopia, and products such as leather figure prominently in the country's exports. A small manufacturing sector exists, and is centered primarily on food and textiles.
According to the Ethiopian constitution, all land is owned by the state and is leased to the people. This is an impediment to private business development, because land cannot be used as collateral for loans. In recent years, the government has introduced measures that are intended to encourage private investment and reduce the rate of inflation. The country has also registered economic growth that can be regarded as rapid, particularly in what has been an overall uncertain global economic climate.
As a nation with a tremendous amount of antiquity, it is not surprising that Ethiopian culture reflects ancient and modern influences. Centuries-old ruins often stand within sight of new construction. Contemporary restaurants serve dishes with roots in pastoral and nomadic ways of life.
Ethiopia is also a nation of diversity. Over eighty ethnic groups, each with distinct customs, cultures, and languages, coexist in the country with remarkably little conflict. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Muslims, members of the country's two most prominent religions, often live side by side.
These elements result in a nation rich with tradition in many areas. Members of ethnic groups take great pride in wearing their traditional garb, whether it is a simple white shawl or an elaborate costume. Music incorporates ethnic and religious influences, and uses instruments that are unique to the area. Ethiopian religious art, particularly decorative church paintings, are immediately distinct.