Today, the country is divided into 14 administrative regions, though this number keeps changing. 12 of the current regions of Ethiopia are based on the identities of different ethnolinguistic groups, and two, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, are chartered cities.
Below is an Ethiopia Regions Map, accompanied by a table of the country’s current administrative regions.
14 Regions of Ethiopia
|Ethiopia Region/City Name|
|Addis Ababa (city)|
|Central Ethiopia Regional State|
|Dire Dawa (city)|
|South Ethiopia Regional State|
|South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Region|
History of Ethiopia Regions
This system of creating ethnolinguistically based regional states was first introduced in 1992 and formalized in the country’s 1994 constitution, replacing the previous system of Ethiopian provinces.
Since the implementation of Ethiopia’s ethnic regions, several groupings and separations have taken place, most recently in 2023. Since the beginning of Abiy Amhed’s premiership, several new regions have been created from the now non-existent Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).
Regions of Ethiopia
In this post, we’ll take a look at each of the Ethiopian regional states, including the chartered cities. We’ll see what makes each one of them unique and how they fit into the larger mosaic of Ethiopia as a whole.
Addis Ababa (city)
Addis Ababa serves not only as the political capital of Ethiopia but also as an autonomous city region, separate from the surrounding Oromia region. It is the largest city in Ethiopia — a bustling metropolis that epitomizes Ethiopia’s rapid modernization and growth.
Established in 1886, Addis Ababa (“New Flower” in Amharic) has a rich history that encompasses a range of influences, from its founding by Emperor Menelik II to serving as the headquarters for the African Union.
This city region is a hub for both domestic and international air travel, with Bole International Airport being one of the busiest airports on the continent. Culturally, Addis Ababa is a melting pot where various Ethiopian ethnic groups converge, creating a diverse and vibrant social landscape.
There are various tourist attractions in and around the Ethiopian capital, and it houses numerous landmarks and institutions of importance, such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the National Museum—home to the famous fossil “Lucy”—and Addis Ababa University, which is among Africa’s top educational institutions.
The Afar Region, situated in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, is one of the country’s most distinctive and captivating areas. Known for its harsh climate and unique geological formations, it serves as the gateway to the Danakil Depression, one of the lowest and hottest places on Earth.
The region is primarily inhabited by the Afar people, a nomadic group that speaks the Afar language and is traditionally engaged in pastoralism and salt mining. Culturally, the Afar people have a strong social structure that revolves around clans and is deeply connected to their pastoral lifestyle.
The Afar Region is incredibly rich in natural resources, including deposits of potash and sulfur. However, its hostile environment makes resource extraction challenging. The region is dotted with volcanoes and salt flats, making it a place of significant geological interest.
While Afar has much to offer in terms of natural beauty and cultural richness, it also faces several challenges. Due to its harsh environment, it is one of the less developed regions in Ethiopia, grappling with issues such as water scarcity and limited access to education and healthcare.
Located in the northwestern part of Ethiopia, the Amhara Region is the second-most region in the country and the third-largest by total area. It serves as the historical home of the Amhara people, one of the country’s largest ethnic groups, and the Amharic language.
The region is often considered the heartland of ancient Ethiopian civilization, playing a crucial role in the country’s history for thousands of years. The Amhara Region was central to the ancient Aksumite Kingdom, the Solomonic Dynasty, and several other significant historical epochs.
The capital city of the Amhara Region is Bahir Dar, whose name translates to “Sea Shore” in English. The city is the seat of the Regional Government of Amhara, and it’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In 2015, the city was conferred the UNESCO Learning City Award.
Geographically, the Amhara region includes the Ethiopian Highlands, also known as the Roof of Africa, and the picturesque Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. It’s also home to Simien Mountains National Park, the largest national park in the country.
Located in the western part of Ethiopia, bordering Sudan, the Benishangul-Gumuz Region was created from the former provinces of Gojjama and Welega. The name of the region comes from its two most prominent ethnic groups — the Berta (also known as Benishangul) and the Gumuz. Other major groups living here are the Shinasha, Mao, and Komo.
The region is rich in minerals such as gold and has fertile lands that are conducive to agriculture, though economic development has been stifled due to a lack of transportation and communications infrastructure. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), whose controversial filling was completed in late 2023, is located in the region.
The Metekel Zone in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region has been especially affected by instances of ethnic-based conflicts in recent years. These have caused the displacement of many people, and humanitarian aid has been limited.
Central Ethiopia Regional State
The Central Ethiopia Regional State is one of the newest additions to the regions of Ethiopia. It was formed in August 2023 from the northern part of the SNNPR after a referendum resulted in the southern part of the former region becoming the South Ethiopia Regional State.
There are ten zones and special woredas in this new region, and its capital is Welkite (also spelled Wolkite), which is part of the Gurage Zone. The city is home to Wolkite University, and the Gurage Zone hosts the Gibe Sheleko National Park, named after the Gibe River.
Dire Dawa (city)
Along with Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa is one of two independent chartered cities in Ethiopia. It is located in the eastern part of the country and is known for its diverse population and rich history. It’s also a key commercial hub that connects Ethiopia to Djibouti and, by extension, provides access to the Red Sea.
Unlike many other parts of Ethiopia, Dire Dawa was historically shaped by multiple influences, including French and Italian, which is evident in its varied architectural styles and cultural imprints. There are two woredas that make up this region — the city itself and the nonurban woreda of Gurgura.
In addition to its role as an important trade center, the presence of the Dire Dawa Industrial Park also contributes to the city’s economic significance, focusing on textile and apparel manufacturing.
Ethnically and culturally, Dire Dawa is a melting pot. It is home to diverse groups such as the Oromo, Somali, Amhara, and Gurage, among others. This multicultural setting is reflected in the city’s cuisine, languages, and festivals.
Ethiopia’s regional state of Gambela, also spelled Gambella, is located in the southwestern part of the country, bordering South Sudan. The region sits between the Baro and Akobo Rivers, and its capital city is also named Gambela.
The city of Gambela is located in the region’s Anyuak Zone and is notable for its airport and proximity to the Gambela National Park. The national park is the largest protected area in Ethiopia and is home to the white-eared kob migration, the second-largest movement of mammals in Africa.
Despite its natural richness, Gambela faces several challenges. Being a lowland area, it’s prone to seasonal flooding, which can disrupt local agricultural activities. The region has also been the site of ethnic tensions and conflicts, although efforts are underway to promote social cohesion and peacebuilding.
Nestled in the eastern part of Ethiopia, the Harari Region is one of the country’s smallest administrative divisions but is immensely rich in history and culture. Known primarily for its capital city, Harar, this region is often dubbed as the “Fourth Holy City of Islam,” after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
Harar is a UNESCO World Heritage site, renowned for its well-preserved Islamic architecture, ancient city walls, and a high concentration of mosques and shrines.
The Harari Region is a remarkable example of religious and cultural harmony. Though it’s predominantly Muslim, the region has been home to various religious communities, including Christians and followers of other faiths, living together for centuries. This coexistence is a defining characteristic, reflected in the region’s festivals, arts, and daily life.
Oromia is Ethiopia’s largest region, both in terms of land area and population. It surrounds Addis Ababa and stretches across a variety of landscapes, from highlands to lowlands, providing an abundant natural setting that includes forests, rivers, and lakes.
Primarily inhabited by the Oromo people, the region is rich in cultural heritage, with its own unique language, music, and traditions. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, featuring crops like coffee, maize, and teff, of which the region produces almost half of the country’s output. Oromia is also known for its mineral resources and burgeoning industries.
Unfortunately, the region faces challenges such as land disputes, social unrest, and uneven development. Institutions like Addis Ababa University and Jimma University contribute to education and research, playing a crucial role in the region’s development.
Carved out from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) in 2020 following a referendum, Sidama is one of Ethiopia’s newest regional states. Primarily inhabited by the Sidama people, the region is known for its distinct cultural heritage, which includes the celebration of the Fichee-Chambalaalla New Year Festival.
Located in the southern part of Ethiopia, Sidama is particularly famous for its coffee, which is a significant contributor to the local and national economy. Enset, also known as the “false banana,” is another important crop, deeply ingrained in the region’s agriculture and cuisine.
The region’s capital, Hawassa, is a growing urban center that offers a mix of modern amenities and scenic beauty, including the picturesque Lake Hawassa. Challenges faced by the region include issues related to land use and social integration. Educational and healthcare services are continually being developed to elevate the quality of life for the residents.
Located in the easternmost part of Ethiopia, the Somali Region is a vast area known for its arid landscape, nomadic culture, and strategic importance. Primarily inhabited by ethnic Somalis, the region shares a border with Somalia and is influenced by a shared language, religion, and cultural practices.
The arid landscape is susceptible to droughts, which can endanger the livelihood of the region’s nomadic people.
The Somali Region is a vital conduit for trade between Ethiopia and ports along the Gulf of Aden, making it strategically significant. Livestock rearing is the primary economic activity, closely followed by trade and small-scale agriculture.
The region is rich in untapped natural resources, including oil and gas reserves in the Ogaden Basin, although exploration and development have been slow.
South Ethiopia Regional State
The South Ethiopia Regional State is one of the most recently formed regional states in the country. It is located in southern Ethiopia and borders neighboring Kenya, South Sudan, and the Ilemi Triangle.
This regional state of Ethiopia was formed in 2023 after a referendum determining whether select areas in the former SNNPR would leave and establish their own region was passed. The establishment of this region also led to the remainder of the SNNPR being redefined as the Central Ethiopia Regional State.
The political and administrative center of the South Ethiopia Regional State is Wolaita Sodo, the capital city of the similarly named zone. There are 12 zones that make up this region.
South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Regions
Yet another Ethiopian regional state that was formerly part of the SNNPR is the South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Region, which was established in 2021. This region borders South Sudan and the Ilemi Triangle.
The South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Region is composed of six zones: Keffa, Sheka, Bench Sheko, Dawro, West Omo, and Konta zones. Notably, the Kafa Biosphere Reserve is located in this regional state, which is said to be the birthplace of the Arabica coffee bean. It’s also home to Ethiopia’s National Coffee Museum.
The current deputy Chief Administrator of the region is Negash Wagesho Amencho, and the working language used is Amharic.
Located in northern Ethiopia, the Tigray Region is rich in history and cultural heritage, known for its ancient rock-hewn churches and historical sites. Home to the Tigrayan people, the region has its own language, Tigrinya, and a distinct set of customs.
Agriculture is a key sector in Tigray, with the region’s farmers primarily engaged in the cultivation of crops like teff, barley, and wheat. The presence of the Tekeze River also provides some opportunities for irrigation-based farming.
However, Tigray faces significant challenges, including frequent droughts and recent political and social unrest that have led to humanitarian crises. The region has become a focal point of international concern, with ongoing efforts to provide aid and relief to the affected population.