Ethiopia Opens Doors to Foreign Property Ownership and Global Retailers

In a landmark move signaling a significant shift in economic policy, Ethiopia is set to welcome foreign capital with open arms, allowing for the first time the ownership of property by foreign investors. Announced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a pivotal meeting with investors on March 22, 2024, this decision marks a departure from long-standing protectionist policies that have traditionally governed the nation’s approach to foreign investment and property ownership.

Breaking New Ground in Property Ownership

Historically, Ethiopia has maintained a restrictive stance on property ownership, limiting the privilege to Ethiopian citizens and members of the Ethiopian diaspora. Foreign investors were only permitted to own property if it was directly linked to approved commercial ventures. However, under the new directive from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, foreign individuals and entities will be granted the right to own property without being tied to specific investment projects. This groundbreaking change is expected to significantly boost foreign investment in the country, enhancing Ethiopia’s attractiveness as a destination for international capital.

Welcoming Global Retail Giants

In conjunction with opening up property ownership, Ethiopia is also lifting bans on international retailers, paving the way for global brands to enter the Ethiopian market. This development is particularly notable in sectors such as supermarkets, consumer goods, and retail chains, where international presence has been previously barred. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned that restrictions on well-known international retailers, including the likes of Starbucks and various supermarket chains, would be lifted, stating, “We’ll now open the market for them.” To accommodate these new players, substantial mall constructions are underway in the capital, Addis Ababa, signaling a robust readiness to embrace global retail.

A Strategic Pivot Towards Economic Liberalization

These reforms are part of Ethiopia’s broader Homegrown Economic Reform Agenda, aimed at liberalizing the economy by 2026. Since taking office in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been a proponent of economic reforms and liberalization, seeking to open up the Ethiopian market to international investors and companies. The telecommunications sector was among the first to benefit from this new approach, with Safaricom acquiring an $850 million license, marking a historic entry of foreign investment into a sector previously closed off to international competition. Additionally, reforms in banking regulations are underway to further attract foreign investment.


Ethiopia’s bold steps towards economic liberalization and opening its doors to foreign investment and global retailers represent a significant pivot in its economic policy. By allowing foreign property ownership and lifting bans on international retail giants, Ethiopia is not only diversifying its economy but also integrating it more closely with the global market. These measures are expected to foster a competitive business environment, encourage foreign direct investment, and stimulate economic growth. As the Homegrown Economic Reform Agenda progresses, the eyes of the world will be on Ethiopia, watching as it transforms into a more open and dynamic market economy by 2026

Business Consultant in Ethiopia | Investment Firm in Ethiopia