Ethiopia is the second most-populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, with a population of 120 million in 2023. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Since 2004, however, it has experienced strong and broad-based economic growth, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. This has brought with it positive trends. Poverty has been reduced, in both urban and rural areas, from 39 per cent in 2005 to below 30 per cent in 2015.

There has been significant progress in the past 20 years. Primary school enrolment has quadrupled, child mortality has been cut in half, and the number of people with access to clean water has more than doubled. Gender parity in primary education has also improved.


The main challenge now is to continue and accelerate the progress made in recent years. To this end, Ethiopia has integrated the SDGs into national development policies, strategies and sectoral programmes through the current Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP 2), which commenced in 2015. The GTP aims to expand the coverage of infrastructure and social services and emphasises improvement in the quality of services. The Government is already devoting a very high share of its budget to pro-poor programmes and investments. To continue these improvements, Ethiopia will need continued investment and improved policies.

Young Lives Ethiopia study coincided with rapid economic growth in Ethiopia, and with a range of policies and programmes designed to address poverty and to improve the situation of children. The 1990s saw Ethiopia introduce a number of policies to improve the situation of vulnerable women and children. In the first two decades of the new Millennium, there has been increasing institutional awareness of issues concerning children and youth, with the establishment of ministries that include specific mandates to attend to these. In the first decade, national plans and strategies aimed at sustainable development and the reduction of poverty, paying attention to children primarily in the spheres of health and education; the Growth and Transformation Plans of the second decade pay broader attention to children and youth, along with women’s affairs, as components in the transformation of society. The national Social Protection Policy initially focussed on four areas, all of which affect children: social safety-nets, livelihood and employment support, social insurance and access to health, education and other social services; it subsequently added a fifth area specifically protecting vulnerable groups including children from various forms of violence, abuse and exclusion. Further progress is evident in increasing prominence given to legislation and planning concerning children and youth. Children have received increasing access to public services, including schooling at all levels, health and nutrition, and child protection services. These improvements have culminated in a comprehensive revised National Children’s Policy approved by Parliament in 2017, focussing on children in a variety of difficult circumstances. A National Youth Development and Change Strategy promises attention to continuing transformation.