Transport and communication system are poorly developed in Ethiopia. The whole country is served by a total of 4,109 Km. asphalt road, 9,287 gravel and 5,610 rural road. There is only 31 Km. of road ( all types) per 1000 Sq.Km. Nearly three-quarters of the population lives more than a day's walk from all-weather roads.
The rugged terrain has made building and maintaining roads difficult and expensive. The problem has been exacerbated by the civil war (waged to overthrow the former Military Government) which destroyed much of the country's transport and communication infrastructure. The poor state of roads, among others, has resulted in a highly fragmented market structure.
There is only one railway serving Ethiopia, the 781 Km. single line, metre-gauge from Djibouti to Addis Ababa about 300 thousand tons of freight is transported in and out of the country by the railway. It is the second important route after the highway connecting Addis Ababa with the port of Assab in Eretrea. The line is old and maintenance has been neglected. Consequently, it is rather slow and unreliable as a means of importing or exporting goods (FAO, 1992).
Ethiopia is served by an international airport at Addis Ababa, the Bole Airport. On average, about 50 thousand tons of freight is carried each year by the Ethiopian Airlines which was established in 1945. The Airline, with over thirty aircrafts, is generally considered as one of the most efficient in Africa.
Water transport is largely non-existent in Ethiopia. Some boats do operate on Lake Tana, but the size of freight transported is insignificant. Most of the rivers are not navigable.
Telecommunication service is not well developed with only 155,988 telephones (1989/90) in the country. Over 63.7 per cent of these are found in Addis Ababa, signifying that most parts of the country are inaccessible by telephone. International dialing services showed a significant increase when the construction of the ground satellite station (on the outskirts of Addis Ababa) was completed in 1979.
Ethiopia's potential for hydro-electric power is considerable. The gross hydro-energy potential is estimated at 650 TWh/year which is roughly 8 per cent of Africa's potential. The Blue Nile and the Omo basins taken together can contribute close to 400 TWh/year to the gross potential. Geothermal energy potential (contained in the Rift Valley )is estimated to be in the order of 700 MW. Significant natural gas resources have also been discovered in the eastern part of the country (Mengistu Teferra, 1992).
Despite the enormous potential the installed capacity of the five major hydroelectric plants (Koka, Awash II, Awash III, Fincha and Melka Wakanna) is only about 360 MW2 (Table 2). Ethiopia's per capita electricity consumption of about 25 Kwh/year is among the lowest in the world. It is estimated that only about 10 per cent of the population have access to electricity (Mengistu Teferra, 1992).
The total energy consumption of Ethiopia is largely composed of traditional biomass fuels. It is estimated that biomass fuels account for 94.8 per cent of the total energy consumption with only 5.2 per cent coming from modern energy source (Ethiopia -UNCED, 1992).
Only about 4 per cent of the country's population (47% of the urban and 8% of the rural population) get clean and safe drinking water from properly constructed facilities. The average per capita water consumption is around 20 liters per day, falling to as low as 6 litters a day in areas where water has to be carried, often by women, considerable distance (Ethiopia-UNCED, 1992).
2 About 10% of the electric energy supply comes from small diesel-operated plants.