Ethiopian Culture

Business Culture

Primary Author
Nina Evason,


  • People might meet at a coffee shop initially to introduce and familiarise themselves with one another to assess whether a business relationship is worth pursuing. If a partnership appears to be in both parties’ interest, a meeting at an office will then be organised.
  • Make sure to spend a fair amount of time at the start of a meeting simply socialising and getting to know everyone. Personal relationships are very important to success in business.
  • Stand to greet everyone and address them by their formal title.
  • Coffee may be served at the beginning of a meeting.
  • Present your business card with the right hand or both hands together, not the left hand alone. Do not fold someone’s business card if they give it to you.
  • There may not be a set time when the meeting is expected to end. Therefore, it is best not to make plans immediately afterwards in case the engagement goes for longer than you expected.
  • Meetings generally end once everyone feels that they have exhausted everything they had to say, or when the most senior or eldest person decides there is nothing left to discuss.


  • Be wary of hasty verbal contracts. Agreements should normally be carefully thought through and officiated in writing.
  • Foreign connections are generally viewed positively within Ethiopia, as they are often associated with aid and continued investment.
  • Ethiopians may struggle to decline requests and may avoid giving a flat refusal to those that they consider friends. If you receive a non-committal answer, it is best to interpret it as a negative response (see Communication).
  • Ethiopians often resist giving open criticism or negative opinions on something. For example, instead of directly notifying their supervisor that they are having a problem with a colleague, they may tell other people so it becomes known indirectly. Generally, people feel more comfortable expressing opinions about technical matters rather than personal sentiments.
  • Consider that Ethiopians may feel obliged to perform favours for friends due to their close relationship.
  • Due to the strong capacity of the government and cultural traditions, corruption is somewhat less of a problem for Ethiopia than many of its African neighbouring countries.
  • Small-scale businesses often comprise a number of friends and family members.
  • On the (2017), Ethiopia is ranked 107th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 35 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.

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