Economy and Currency

Economy and Currency

The economy of Ethiopia is based on agriculture, which accounts for half of gross domestic product (GDP), 43% of exports, and 85% of total employment. Ethiopia’s economic freedom score is 49.4, making its economy the 146th freest in the 2013 Index. The foundations of economic freedom are quite fragile, particularly because of pervasive corruption and deficient judicial system. Regulatory efficiency remains poor, creating an unfavorable climate for entrepreneurial activity. The informal economy provides most jobs for the relatively unskilled labor force. Existing policies aimed at promoting and sustaining open markets have been undercut by a lack of effective implementation.

The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr made up of 100 cents. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency, providing declaration of such currency is made to customs on arrival. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors, however, will be able to change back any excess Ethiopian Birr to foreign currency at the airport before departure.

Currency information

Ethiopian Birr (symbol Br) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of Br100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents
Credit cards: Diners Club and MasterCard are accepted on a very limited basis.

Travelers cheques

To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. They are difficult to exchange outside the capital.

Banking hours

Mon-Thurs 0800-1500; Fri 0800-1100 and 1330-1500; Sat 0830-1100

Currency restriction

The import of local currency is limited to Br100. The export of local currency up to Br100 is permitted, provided the traveller holds a re-entry permit. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration on arrival.


Duty-free imports are permitted for up to: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 1/2 lb of tobacco, 1 litre of alcoholic beverages, and two bottles of perfume. Visitors may export souvenirs with a value not exceeding Birr 500, although some articles (such as animal skins and antiques) require an export permit.

Narcotics, all weapons (firearms, ammunition and explosives), ivory, pornographic materials are not allowed, and the import of precious metals and semi-precious gems are limited to 100g and precious gems to 30g.

Prohibited exports include ivory (even if already processed into jewellery), precious metals and semi-precious gems over 100g and precious gems over 30g.

You can only export religious artifacts, antiques and animal hides with the correct export certificates. Those wishing to take animal skins and hides out of the country must apply for a permit from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. For the export of antiques and religious artifacts, you can obtain export certificates at the customs office at Addis Ababa Bole

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