Ethiopia Country Guide

Emory University has a unique, established presence in Ethiopia. In addition to numerous projects, research collaborations, and student experiences across the country, Emory has a country office in Ethiopia, as do its affiliates the Carter Center and the Task Force for Global Health. Emory’s work in Ethiopia focuses primarily on the health sciences, with areas of expertise that include newborn and maternal health, child mortality research, infectious disease research and treatment, and radiation oncology training. The Emory community has also conducted in-country research in climate science, women’s agricultural empowerment, and economic development. Emory students from across professional and PhD programs partner with local and international NGOs in Ethiopia every year for internships and dedicated research.

Ethiopia Map

The Emory Ethiopia Office

The Emory University country office in Addis Ababa was established in 2010 to support a major research project on maternal and newborn health funded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The office's work has grown to include field offices in Bahir Dar, Semara, and Assosa. The office supports Emory’s dynamic activities in Ethiopia through the work of a full-time team of core staff members in Addis Ababa. The team has deep expertise with implementing community-based, health-related programs and works closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, Regional Health Bureaus, Addis Ababa University and other regional universities, as well as key international organizations, including Nutrition International, UNICEF Ethiopia, the World Health Organization, and others. Learn more about the Emory Ethiopia country office

While the Emory Ethiopia Office implements its own projects in the areas of newborn and maternal health, it can also support other Emory projects in myriad ways: from ad hoc logistics support to assistance with in-country staffing. If you are interested in ways to partner with the Emory Ethiopia Office, please contact Sarah Harlan Zegeye.

Considerations for projects and research in Ethiopia

Emory University’s registration with Ethiopia’s Charities and Societies Agency (CSA) is the legal foundation upon which the Emory Ethiopia office’s activities are conducted, and operations conducted through the office must comply with related CSA rules. Contact Sarah Harlan Zegeye for help to determine if and how the country office can help with projects in Ethiopia or if an alternative approach would be more appropriate.

Research Approval

Just as research plans at Emory typically require review at approval from Emory’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), research in Ethiopia may require local IRB approval. For health projects, this will primarily include coordinating permission from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute in the region where you are working, or at the national level if you are working in multiple regions. If handling biological specimens or if working in partnership with a government entity, also expect to coordinate permission from the Ministry of Science and Technology. See more about international IRB considerations on the Emory IRB website.

Budget considerations

For sponsored research, it is important to work with your RAS unit on budget development. Considerations for projects in Ethiopia may vary and include costs associated with in-country legal counsel, accounting and auditing services, benefits for local staff, fluctuations in travel costs, currency fluctuations (for projects subject to CFR 200 Uniform Guidance - typically U.S. government-funded grants - this guidance on exchange rates from CFR 200.440 may be useful), import and export considerations, insurance, taxes, and planning for unexpected costs.  

Staffing considerations

Emory University cannot hire Ethiopia-based employees directly, but it is possible to engage Ethiopia-based individuals as independent contractors, hire them through a third-party vendor or partner institution, or structure their hire through the Emory Ethiopia Country Office. Determining the best approach depends on a number of factors including the nature and duration of the work involved. Contact Sarah Harlan Zegeye for assistance in determining the most appropriate staffing approach for your project. Please note, Ethiopian employees must be paid in Ethiopian birr (ETB).

Learn more about international staffing considerations

Money matters

Ethiopia is still primarily a cash economy, and the official currency is the Ethiopian birr (ETB). US dollars (USD) can be exchanged into birr upon arrival at Bole International Airport, and ATMs at banks, larger hotels and some restaurants can be accessed for local currency as well.

Check out the current exchange rate

Learn more about currency restrictions and guidelines.

If your project will need banking resources in Ethiopia, please contact Sarah Harlan Zegeye to discuss possible options. 

Program oversight

Programs operating abroad must have clear on-site operational managers and financial reporting lines to a particular principal investigator (PI) or administrator at Emory. Overseas projects should also undergo the same regular academic review as domestic programs. Each program should have a designated financial manager at Emory to ensure appropriate documentation of expenses for reporting purposes, oversee compliance with university financial policies, and guard against fraud. Programs that involve multiple departments are advised to give one financial manager ultimate oversight to avoid gaps or confusion in oversight responsibilities.

Ensure that faculty, staff, and students working abroad know how to report problems confidentially. The following resources are available to all Emory employees (not independent contractors), and can be accessed from another country:

Business Etiquette

Businesspeople tend to dress conservatively for meetings, especially in the capital city. In meetings, it is recommended to greet elders first. Shake hands with direct eye contact but note that handshaking is generally much lighter than in Western cultures.

People are addressed by their honorific title and their first name. Ato can be used in the place of “Mr.”, Woizero for addressing married women (“Mrs.”), and Woizerity for addressing unmarried women. Professionals are often addressed by their title (Doctor, Professor). High-ranking government officials (ministers, parliament representatives, etc.) may be addressed as “Excellency” without using their name.

While multiple languages are spoken across Ethiopia, Amharic is the national language. If your work will take you to regions outside of Addis Ababa, you may be well-served learning some phrases in the language of the region. A few good phrases to know in Amharic are:

  • Tena Yistillign – Hello
  • Selam – Hello (informal)
  • Ow – Yes
  • Aydellem – No 
  • Ameseginalehu – Thank you
  • Sintinew – How much is this?

Present and receive business cards with the right hand only or with both hands. Eat with your right hand only, as the left hand may be seen as unhygienic in many cultures. It is also recommended to use your right hand to take and give change in a transaction.

If you will be taking photographs while in Ethiopia, you are encouraged to follow the Unite for Sight guidance on Ethics and Photography in Developing Countries. You can find more considerations on the Emory Global Health Institute website here under "Ethical Considerations."

If you will be operating in a medical facility, there may be other considerations from your Emory school/department or the host institution. Please note, it is illegal to photograph government buildings, military installations, police/military personnel and key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and airfields.


Communications in Ethiopia can be challenging. In many countries, travelers can connect their mobile phones to the local network (though they may be charged roaming fees), but without an Ethiopian SIM card, connecting to the local network may or may not be successful. Further, while internet-powered apps like WhatsApp and Viber work well in Ethiopia, the government controls telecommunications across the country, and it is not unusual for the internet to be shut down periodically.

Depending on the length of your trip and your access to a reliable internet connection, it may be advisable to obtain an Ethiopian phone or SIM card. Ethio Telecom is the national provider, and SIM cards or devices may be purchased from an Ethio Telecom store. Safaricom also operates in Ethiopia, and you can purchase a SIM card from this retailer as well. There are Ethio Telecom and Safaricom kiosks in Bole International Airport near the exit. 

Given the frequency of internet interruptions in Ethiopia, all travelers and project planners should have a communications interruption plan in place for how they will communicate if the normal means are not available. Strategies might include obtaining local phones, or planning for regular check-ins via an office or hotel landline.

The considerations above are not exhaustive, and we encourage you to review our International Project Planning page to assist in preparing for your research or project in Ethiopia.


Travel Safety

Emory travelers are encouraged to contact our travel security and medical evacuation provider International SOS for destination-specific briefings as part of their travel planning. International SOS can advise on best medical facilities, give recommendations for managing illness or medical conditions abroad, and advise on travel plans (e.g., flight vs. overland travel) as well as considerations for your work given your particular profile as a traveler. International SOS serves all Emory faculty, staff, and students when on Emory business. All Emory-sponsored travel by university personnel must be registered with International SOS. While travel booked through an Emory agency is automatically registered, components of trip booked outside these agencies must entered by the traveler through the International SOS website. Contact Sarah Harlan Zegeye with questions about this process.

The US State Department page for Ethiopia has extensive information to guide your travel to Ethiopia, and US travelers should register with the State Department's STEP Program before departing the US.

Visas and permits

A visa is required for U.S. citizens to enter Ethiopia. Many travelers elect to utilize the e-Visa, which you can access via the Ethiopian Embassy website. As of April 2022, e-Visa is recommended by the embassy for foreign nationals traveling to Ethiopia. Please note, visa procedure and types (such as visa on arrival) are subject to change, and travelers are encouraged to consult the Ethiopian Embassy website consular resources for updated information when planning travel to Ethiopia. Please contact Global Servies if you have any questions. 


Consult with your physician on the immunizations and medications necessary for your travel to Ethiopia. See more about healthy travel to Ethiopia from the Centers for Disease Control. Be sure to pack your Yellow Fever immunization card before your flight. Emory faculty and staff are encouraged to utilize the Emory TravelWell Clinic for immunizations and travel wellness consultations.