The Internet is not really free and open in Ethiopia, though you should be able to access all the popular websites.
The problem is when you want to visit sites and services that may be reserved for users in the West. Then, you’ll need a VPN to first connect to a US- or Europe-based server, and only then use that service.
In addition, you’ll need a VPN to use VoIP services like Skype — which are banned in the country. The government reportedly took this step to protect its own telecommunications company, but we don’t buy it. And we don’t like restrictions of any kind.
So yes, you need a good VPN for Ethiopia and these are the best ones:
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Good for both torrenting and streaming
- Works in China
- Solid network with servers in 60+ countries
- Easy to use apps on multiple platforms
- Live chat isn't always available
- Fairly pricey
Whether you need a VPN for watching Netflix shows or downloading files via BitTorrent, Astrill can help you out — all while keeping your identity under the radar. And this is especially true if you live or work in China when the company's stealth protocols will kick in to let you access all the popular sites that are by default blocked by the country's censors.
Astrill's apps are easy to use and available on all popular platforms. Nevertheless, they still manage to provide a host of advanced features tech-savvy folks are used to get. Highly recommended, again, especially if you're looking to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- Fast download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc.
- Great for torrenting
- Advanced privacy features (i.e. Tor over VPN)
- Relatively small number of servers
- There are no browser extensions
- Live chat support is not always available
Specifically, you can rely on PrivateVPN for both torrenting and streaming, without paying a premium. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable options in its league and we love it for that.
Customer support may not be on par with bigger players but it's not like you should experience many problems anyway. You will get the same level of security and privacy as with other services, and a single license will let you run PrivateVPN on up to 6 devices. Pretty cool.
- Works in China
- Many servers in Asia
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Advanced services like VyprVPN Cloud
- No browser extensions
- Torrenting could be better
It manages to bypass restrictions in high-censorship countries and elsewhere by relying on its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which can easily slide under the radar.
VyprVPN is also great for accessing video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and so on — delivering the true buffer-free experience every single time. It will also work with BitTorrent, and consequently - Kodi.
VyprVPN has a strict zero-logs policy. Period.
Internet in Ethiopia
The Internet is not widely available in Ethiopia due to the largely rural makeup of the population and the government’s refusal to permit any privatization of the telecommunications market. That has created a big market for Internet cafés which remain one of the main sources of Internet access for many folks.
However, the fact that there are not many Internet users in the country hasn’t stopped Ethiopia’s censors from blocking parts of the Internet.
From 2012 to 2018, during the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government, there was strong internet control. In October 2012, the OpenNet Initiative listed Ethiopia as engaged in pervasive Internet filtering in the political area, selective filtering in the conflict/security and Internet tools areas, but it found no evidence of filtering in the social area. Blocked content was blocked through the use of forged TCP RST (reset) packets, a method that is not transparent to users.
The government of Ethiopia has long filtered critical and oppositional political content using the broad application of the country’s 2009 anti-terrorism proclamation to convince bloggers and journalists on terrorism charges. Most notably, in July 2012 blogger Eskinder Nega was jailed on an 18-year sentence on charges of attempting to incite violence through his blog posts. Also convicted in absentia were Abebe Gellaw of the online news platform Addis Voice, as well as Mesfin Negash and Abiye Teklemariam, editors of the news website Addis Neger Online.
A number of other journalists and opposition political figures were also simultaneously convicted of similar offenses. In January 2012, Elias Kifle, editor of Ethiopian Review, was convicted in absentia under the same anti-terrorism laws. And, unfortunately, the list of jailed journalists and bloggers doesn’t end there.
Beyond censorship, the government passed a law restricting the use of VoIP applications such as Skype in order to protect domestic telecommunications providers. Then again, some critics described the new draft legislation as an attempt to criminalize the use of VoIP services to punish dissent.
Finally, we have a report from 2012 from developers of the Internet anonymizer software project Tor, who have found that Ethio telecom had begun using deep packet inspection (DPI) to block access to the Tor service.
With the new government, elected in 2018, came new rules — and so Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government ordered the unblocking of over 200 websites as part of reforms that also saw banned TV channels restored and several political prisoners set free. Announcing the reforms, Abiy’s Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega reaffirmed freedom of expression as a “foundational right.”
Alas, that wave of freedom hasn’t lasted long and in June 2019, Internet monitoring group NetBlocks reported a total internet shutdown across Ethiopia following the blocking of messaging applications Telegram and WhatsApp by Ethio Telecom. Interpreted as a measure to prevent cheating in nationwide exams, the disruption angered business owners.
Connectivity returned briefly on two occasions during four consecutive days of national blackouts that were followed by further regional disruptions. WhatsApp was unblocked soon afterward, but Telegram remained blocked without explanation.
The Internet connection completely shut down again since the assassination of General Se’are Mekonnen, Ambachew Mekonnen, Ezez Wassie, and Gizae Aberra on 22 June 2019. It came back two weeks on 2 July 2019.
Unfortunately, the story of Internet shutdowns doesn’t end there. Another shutdown took place on June 30, 2020, and another one on November 4, 2020.
Surveillance in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government is engaged in extensive surveillance of Internet users both inside and outside Ethiopia. In August 2012, the country was included on a list of 10 countries that own the commercial spyware suite FinFisher. The Ethiopian government agency involved in surveillance and content blocking is called the Information Network Security Agency.
As part of its surveillance plans, in December 2006, the Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency began requiring Internet cafés to log the names and addresses of individual customers. The lists are to be turned over to the police, and Internet café owners who fail to register users may face prison.
A 2014 study by Human Rights Watch found extensive surveillance of the Internet and other telecommunication systems in the country. Ethiopian security and intelligence agencies can use internet surveillance capabilities to access files and activity on a target’s computer; to log keystrokes and passwords; and to remotely activate the device’s webcam and microphone.
A VPN is a must-have for Ethiopia
Beyond providing users with peace of mind that the government can’t know their web whereabouts, a VPN also lets them access parts of the Internet that could otherwise (without a VPN) be outside of their reach. We are talking about popular streaming services which are notorious for reserving their best catalogs for users in the West.
Also, with a VPN – you get to use public Wi-Fi hotspots without worrying that someone could intercept your traffic and potentially get ahold of your personal information. A VPN will encrypt all data before sending it to the server. The VPN server on its end will also send back the encrypted content.
Plus, let’s not forget VoIP services that you will be able to use with a VPN — despite the government trying to block them for all users in Ethiopia.
And there’s more, of course. What you want is a VPN that will cover many needs you may have, including:
- Accessing content that could otherwise be restricted in your physical location.
- Preventing tracking and minimizing your digital footprint so that no one can track you online (at least not that easily).
- Avoiding throttling from your ISP – which is known to happen when you’re torrenting or accessing video streaming services.
- Bypassing firewalls in a workplace, university, school and so on.
- Bypassing censorship in places like China, North Korea, countries in the Middle East, and even Turkey and Russia.
- Securely connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots – with a VPN encrypting all the traffic coming to and from your devices.
The bottom line is – get a VPN that fits all your needs. The top contenders include the following: