How to Start an Import Business in Ethiopia

Any domestic investor can engage in import/ export business in Ethiopia. Check our Import/Export Page for more.

Registration and License

A minimum capital of Br. 5,001.00 is needed to register and get business license.

According to the commercial registration and business license proclamation No. 980/2016, a sole person cannot be importer or distributor i.e. that a person should either form a partnership or business organization to engage in an import trade. However, the Ministry of Trade and Industry may allow sole importation or distribution based on the type of business and its national significance.

All importers in Ethiopia should, first, be registered in the commercial registration which is administered by the Ministry of Trade and Industry located near Hilton Hotel or beside Casanchis super market, located in Addis Ababa. Importers in the regional states may be registered in the respective regional trade bureaus. Foreign investors (and domestic investor who want to benefit from the investment incentives) must be registered in the Ethiopia Investment Commission.

After commercial registration, a person must obtain a business license and import permit from the relevant government organ (i.e. Ministry of Trade and Industry, regional trade bureaus, Ethiopian investment commission or any other government organ vested with such powers). However, an investment permit obtained from the Ethiopian Investment Commission serves as an import permit.

What documents one has to provide is mentioned on our Business Registration and License page.



  • A total amount of 101 birr is paid to the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Special Import Permits

One can register to import all types of goods allowed for import provided that such good is not prohibited or restricted by an administrative decision. For importing restricted goods, a special import permit is required from the relevant government organ. In a notable manner, the subcategory has to be specified for all kinds of imports on the business license as per the Ethiopian Standard Industrial Classification (a new version is on the verge of publication).

Here are some of the relevant government organs who issue import permit and special import permit:

  • Medical Appliances (lab equipment, hospital equipment, etc): special permit/approval is needed from Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority.
  • Chemicals (precursor and related chemicals, pesticides, herbicides): special permit/approval is needed fromfrom Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority.)
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicines: special permit/approval is needed from from Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority.
  • Fertilizer: special permit is needed from the Rural Development Animal and Plant Health Regulatory Department of the Ministry of Agriculture. Its location is on Lam Beret in Addis Ababa.
  • Food products, such as food supplement, and infant foods: special permit/approval is needed from from Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority.