The law applicable to foreigners in Ethiopia-Summary of the legal provisions (Part I)

The law applicable to foreigners in Ethiopia-Summary of the legal provisions (Part I)

This Article is neither a commentary nor an analysis of the legal regime governing the rights and duties of foreigners in Ethiopia. Rather, it is a summary of the legal provisions directly or indirectly related to foreigners in Ethiopia so as to help as a brief guide.

As a matter of principle, the law in Ethiopia equally applies to any person irrespective of nationality. However, different legislation contain special provisions specifically applicable to foreigners. This summary is about these special legal provisions.

Ownership of Immovable Property

The 1960 Civil Code restricts the right of foreigners to own immovable property in Ethiopia. (Article 390 of the Civil Code) Any foreigner who is found to own immovable property in good faith is required by the competent authority to dispose of such immovable property to an Ethiopian within a period of six months. In case of failure to dispose of such immovable property to an Ethiopian within six months, the immovable property shall be seized and sold by the competent authority. The proceeds of the sale shall be paid to the foreigner less twenty percent which shall be deducted as a penalty and with a view to covering the expenses of sale. When the property is acquired by succession, the deduction will be only ten percent.

(Article 390-393 of the Civil Code)

Special cases for foreign investors

The old law which puts restriction on foreigners regarding ownership of immovable property has been recently relaxed by a recent law. The new investment proclamation allows foreign investor  or  a  foreign  national  treated  as domestic investor to  have the right to own a dwelling  house and  other  immovable property requisite for  their investment.

(Article 24 of Investment proclamation No. 760/2012)

Driving license

If you hold a foreign license or international driving license, you may be granted an equivalent license in Ethiopia. A foreign license is defined as a motor vehicle driving license issued by any foreign government recognized by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. An international driving license is any motor vehicle driver’s qualification certification license issued in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on the 19th day of September 1949


Where a person holding a foreign or international driving license applies for an equivalent category, the Licensing body shall issue the requested license upon;

A)    ascertaining that the government which issued the driving license similarly recognizes Ethiopian driver’s qualification certification license

B)    Being satisfied that the license is authenticated by the concerned body and is currently valid

C)    Receipt of the appropriate fees

(Article 15 sub article 2(b) of Driver’s Qualification Certification License Proclamation No 600/2008)

Third party insurance

Foreign Registered Vehicles

A)    The driver of any foreign registered vehicle permitted to be driven on the roads of Ethiopia shall possess a valid certificate of insurance and insurance sticker or, where the insurance policy is not issued by a local insurance company, he shall produce a yellow card or an equivalent proof of Insurance coverage

B)    The insurance coverage against third party risks with respect to an accident caused by any foreign registered vehicle while driven on the Ethiopian road shall not be less than the amount of compensation specified under Article I60fthis Proclamation

(Article33 of Vehicle Insurance Against Third Party Risks Proclamation No 559/2008)


Foreign tourists to engage in hunting activity should first obtain hunting permit from Ethiopian Wildlife Development and Conservation Authority (Article 6 sub article 3 of Ethiopian Wildlife Development and Conservation Authority Establishment Proclamation No. 575/2008)

The types of hunting license, wildlife species which could be legally hunted and other conditions of hunting license are provided in Wildlife Development, Conservation and Utilization Council of Ministers Regulation No. 163/2008.

Accordingly the regulation recognizes three types of hunting license:

A- Foreign Tourist Hunting License

Foreign tourist license is issued by the Authority to a foreign tourist hunter for hunting wildlife species specified on Table IV of the Regulation. The table contains list of 54 types of wildlife allowed for hunting by foreign tourist hunters including the respective unit price for each type of wildlife species. The price ranges from the minimum of 100 USD for Baboon, Anibus to the maximum of 15000 USD for Nyala, Mountain.

You can download Table IV of the Regulation HERE

B- Resident Hunter License

Resident hunter license is issued by the appropriate regional body (most probably by regional bureau of Agriculture) to resident foreign hunters or Ethiopians for hunting wildlife species specified on Table V of the Regulation. The table contains list of 8 types of wildlife allowed for hunting by resident hunter including the respective unit price for each type of wildlife species. Resident hunter license is valid for a period of 15 days.

C- Snipe Hunting License

Snipe hunting license is issued by the appropriate regional body to a foreign tourist or resident hunter. The list of birds allowed for snipe hunting is provided in table VI of the regulation. Additionally, the regulation (in table VII) also provides for two types of snipe species (Great snipe and common snipe) allowed to be hunted by foreign tourist or resident hunters.

Download Table V  and table IV of the Regulation HERE

Film shooting permit

A foreigner wishing to shoot a feature or documentary film in Ethiopia shall obtain a permit from the Ministry of Information and Culture. (Article 5 of Film shooting permits Council of Ministers Regulations. No. 66/2000)  Such permit requirement is applicable to all foreigners who come to shoot films either for profit or nonprofit purpose, with the exception of film establishments which are permanently established and licensed in Ethiopia.

Please note that due to repeated re-restructuring and re-organization, the powers and duties of Ministry of Information and Culture has been transferred to different organs and the ministry does not currently exist. The power of issuing film shooting permit is now transferred to Government Communication Affairs Office. Therefore, you should substitute the reference to the Ministry of Information and Culture in the regulation by Government Communication Affairs Office.

Accordingly, A foreigner wishing to shoot films in Ethiopia shall submit his application to the office not later than ten (10) days prior to the day on which he is due to commence filming. The application shall contain, among other things, the purpose and title of the film, duration of the shooting and the exact location where it takes place and the total production cost of the film as well as the portion that will be used within Ethiopia.

The applicant should submit together with his application the following documents:

(a) A copy of the film script along with its synopsis for feature films or synopsis for documentary films;

(b) In case an Ethiopian personality is portrayed in the film as a character, a copy of a document of no objection from such person or his heirs, certified by an organ legally empowered to approve contracts and documents;

(c) In case of a co-production by an Ethiopian and a foreigner, an agreement indicating the responsibilities and liabilities of each party;

(d) The nationality of the filming crew, the passport number, the country issuing the passport, their permanent and temporary addresses as well as other information as may be required by the Office.

You can download the Application form for film shooting in Ethiopia HERE

Entitlement to plant breeder’s right

Ethiopia has issued a law (Plant breeder’s right Proclamation no. 481/2005) giving recognition and protection to plant breeder’s right. Even though, you are a foreigner you are entitle to a plant breeders’ right in respect of your new plant variety. (Article 10 of Plant breeder’s right Proclamation no. 481/2005) The right is subject to exemptions (Article) and restrictions (Article) provided in the proclamation.

A plant breeders’ right entitles the holder an exclusive right to:

A)    Sell,  including the  right to license other persons to sell, plants or  propagating  material of the protected variety; and

B)    produce,  including  the  right  to  license other persons  to produce,  propagating material of the protected variety for sale (Article 5)

Applying for the right

In order to be granted a plant breeders’ right in respect of new plant variety, you should present written application to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Ministry shall grant a plant breeders’ right if it is satisfied that:

1)      The plant variety is new

2)      There is no  ground, as  provided for in the Proclamation, to refuse the granting of plant breeders’ right to the applicant;

3)      The breeder has a proof that he has obtained the  genetic  resource used to develop the  variety in accordance  with the relevant laws  on access  to genetic resources;

4)      A plant breeders’ right has not been granted to another  person in respect of the variety;

5)      There has been  no earlier application, that has not been  withdrawn or rejected, for  a plant breeders’  right in respect  of the new variety in question;

6)      All fees payable in relation to the granting of  plant breeders’  right have been paid

(Article 14 of Plant breeder’s right Proclamation no. 481/2005)

Temporary Protection

During the period between the date the application for plant breeders’ right is filed and the granting of plant breeders’ right or  the  final rejection of the application, The applicant shall be deemed to have a plant  breeders’ right in respect of the new variety

Access to genetic resources and community knowledge

As a general rule, no  person  shall  access  genetic  resources  or community  knowledge  unless  in  possession  of written  access  permit  granted  by  the  Institute based on prior informed consent. The consent is a precondition for access permit.

  • Access to genetic resources shall be subject to the prior informed consent of the Institute  of  Biodiversity Conservation
  • Access  to  community  knowledge  shall  be subject  to  the  prior  informed  consent  of  the concerned local community

Applying for access permit

If you are a foreigner applying for access to genetic resources or community knowledge you should first qualify for the permit just like an Ethiopian applicant. However, an access applicant who is a foreigner should present a letter from  the competent authority of his national state or  that of his  domicile  assuring  that  it  shall  uphold  and  enforce  the access obligations the applicant. (Article 12 sub article 4 of Access to genetic resources and community knowledge proclamation no 482/2006)

Additionally, in  cases  of  access  by  foreigners,  the  collection  of  genetic resources and community knowledge shall be accompanied by  the  personnel  of  the  Institute  or  the  personnel  of  the relevant institution to be designated by the Institute (Article 12 sub article 5 of Access to genetic resources and community knowledge proclamation no 482/2006)

Where the Institute grants exploration permit to a foreigner, it shall assign its scientific personnel or designate other relevant institution to accompany the exploration mission. (Article 24 sub article 3 of Access to genetic resources and community knowledge proclamation no 482/2006)

Right of Prisoners

In addition to the other rights provided to all prisoners, a prisoner who is a foreign national shall be allowed to be visited, by the embassy or consular representative of his country. (Article 13 sub article 2 of Treatment of Federal Prisoners Council of Ministers Regulations No.138/ 2007)

Mass media ownership

The right to establish a mass media is reserved to Ethiopian nationals (Article 5 sub article 1 of Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation No. 590/2008)

For the purpose of Article 5(1) of the Proclamation, a company is of an Ethiopian nationality if its total capital originates from a local source or persons holding its capital or voting rights are Ethiopian nationals and it does not include a company whose capital or voting rights are held by a locally registered business organization in which foreign nationals acquired voting rights. Similarly an association is considered as local if it is registered as local association in accordance with the charities and associations law. (Article 7 sub article 5 of Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation No. 590/2008),

Political participation

Foreign nationals are prohibited from providing donation or grant to political parties in Ethiopia (Article 52 sub article 1 (a) of The Revised Political Parties Registration Proclamation No. 573/2008)

Broadcasting License

Bodies not to be issued with Licenses

The following bodies may not be issued with broadcasting service licenses:

  • Without prejudice to the provisions of other laws regarding foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin, an organization:

A)    not incorporated in Ethiopia;

B)    in which its capital or its management control is held by foreign nationals

(Article 23 of Broadcasting Service Proclamation No. 533/2007)

7 replies »

  1. Thank you for information regarding investments. what are the benefits for a foreign national possessing a 5 years resident permit which is permitted to obtain for those who lived more than 15 years in Ethiopia

  2. Thank you very much.
    Hope you will help me in future with any changes in the law.
    Now so many expatriates are coming to Ethiopia on employment.Kindly through some light on such expatriates who come here to work in the universities. How their salaries are funded and the legal status of such people.

  3. your work is very very amazing and should be continue in future,thanks . i wish long life to you!

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