Information regarding the current foreign exchange situation, particularly in relation to the US$. Information on the possibility for an Ethiopian citizen (Issa) to have a US$ bank account in Ethiopia. [ETH3283]

According to the president of the Ethiopian Canadian Association of Ottawa, the Ethiopian government lacks and needs foreign exchange. It is illegal for anyone to be in possession of hard currency, especially US$, as all foreign currency has to be declared upon entry into the country. At that time each person will be given a document recording the amount of foreign currency declared. The National Bank of Ethiopia is the only institution permitted to trade in foreign currency. It is necessary to show proof of legal foreign exchange where the official bank stamp is evident on the foreign currency document obtained on entry. At the same time, any foreign currency spent on items in government operated hotel souvenir shops, must be officially stamped in each individual foreign currency document.

However, the government's attempts to control the foreign exchange situation is evidenced by the thriving black market. At the present time, the official exchange rate is Eth. Birr $2.05 to the US$, while the black market rate is Eth. Birr $5.00-6.00 to the US$.

No one is permitted to open a foreign bank account in Ethiopia, at least until three years ago. It is also of no consequence to the government what ethnic group a person belongs to, regarding a private foreign bank account. Members of the business community who have been granted "import and export licences" are permitted to apply for foreign exchange to the National Bank of Ethiopia. The rules are strict and one would have to prove the necessity for the business venture, and the profit to the country.

There is no corroborating information from published sources, presently available to the IRBDC, regarding this topic.