Youth Culture and Entertainment in Ethiopia

Among Sub-Saharan countries, Ethiopia has repeatedly made the list of the fastest-growing economies in recent years. The main driving force behind this growth is the large trade industry, greatly aided by the country being the home of the coffee bean, and the technological advancements that have occurred. 

Hot on the heels of this tech have been Ethiopia’s westernization, including pop culture entertainment such as movies and music, fashion, and even the pastimes people engage in, like sports betting and drinking.

While some have called for an end to this process, believing it is destroying the country’s youth culture, others welcome it and claim that it is helping the youth experience new things and grow. With 41% of the population under 15 years old, there are certainly plenty of youth to develop and ingrain a new culture, but what exactly have been the effects? Let’s find out.

Existing Culture

The culture among Ethiopian youth has been a melting pot for decades. Facing incredible hardships and trials that youth in many other countries are exempt from, the youth have struggled and persevered in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

These conditions have shaped and molded youth culture and have been pivotal in youth development until recently.

Health challenges are among the greatest of these. Steps have been taken to provide better access to health services and information, but there is still a gaping hole in proper health services that address the physical and mental needs of youth. Sexual education, in particular, has been solely overlooked, leading to massive numbers of unsafe abortions and a higher spread of HIV.

After health, education has been the next great challenge. In many instances, youth complete only primary schooling before going to work in the formal sector. Many also begin working at a young age as unpaid family workers, while women traditionally leave school due to marrying at a young age.

The lack of proper and advanced education has inflated unemployment rates in the formal job sector. In turn, this has pushed even more youth into informal work, leading to more youth being taken advantage of as cheap labor. 

These issues, although not strictly unique to Ethiopia, have led to a perceived culture of irresponsibility and recklessness among youth. Fortunately, thanks to the nation’s increasing modernization, the youth culture has been evolving, and this perception is changing.

Current Culture

As with many other African cultures, the influx of Western entertainment and influence has shaken things up. Music and other forms of popular culture are among the most significant influences on youth in Ethiopia.

Music artists from countries like the US have found a massive fanbase among Ethiopian youth, and their message has changed these listeners’ mindsets—as music can do. The growth of local music has offset this change and is evenly balanced to allow youth to keep to their roots while embracing change.

Popular pastimes and forms of entertainment common in Western countries have also made their way to the African nation. For example, gambling on the types of iGaming sites reviewed on has increased dramatically. Despite the activity already being part of traditional culture to an extent, the industry has seen growth, leading to an annual revenue of $17.34 million.

Additional items influencing this culture shift have been the rollout of more significant telecommunication networks in the country. This has led to broader access to information, international news, and exposure to other cultures via mediums like social networks.

These external factors coming from the West have been aggregated by other internal factors. Wider availability of health services, greater importance placed on education, and lower unemployment rates have all aided this. 

Together, all these variables have created a new mixed culture of traditional Ethiopian values and more modern Western beliefs and viewpoints. However, this has not gone down smoothly among all parties.


Like many countries, Ethiopia has a rich history and a deeply ingrained culture that has developed over millennia. Among the older generation, this is almost sacred and prioritized in virtually all aspects of life. 

With the modernization of local cultures among the youth, there has been some backlash against adopting new beliefs. Much of the older generation (and even some youth) believe that the westernization of the country is leading to the loss of traditions and beliefs established in the country for ages. 

As mentioned, some youths have voiced concerns about this, expressly mentioning the celebration of Western music despite Ethiopia having plenty of incredible artists, thus raising the question of why these are not lauded like Western options.

Alongside the loss of traditional culture, another concern is the loss of religious belief among youth. Despite not being constitutionally religious, Ethiopia is one of the most spiritual nations on the African continent.

Home to the third-largest Muslim population in Sub-Saharan Africa and Orthodox Christianity, which is observed by more than 43% of the population, religion is an integral part of daily life. In Western society, religion often plays a lesser role and can be chosen or waived by individuals without much consequence. 

Because of this, youth culture in Ethiopia will continue to be shaped by all the above factors and directed by religion. 


Youth culture is hard to define or pinpoint among youth worldwide, not just in Ethiopia. With so many individuals having varying viewpoints and beliefs, reaching a consensus is not easy. 

However, the evolution of Ethiopia’s youth culture can be seen clearly. And as Western ideas, media, entertainment, and information flood into the country, those living there are given a delicate task.

While keeping their traditions, the current generation of youth must carefully decide which aspects of Western culture they allow in and which they don’t. Failure to make the right decision can lead to a rising culture that could thrust future generations into an identity crisis. 

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