Electronic signatures facilitate faster and more secure document signing for the public and private sector, with the flexibility to choose the option that is most efficient for each organization, department, or project. With the passage of the Electronic Signature Proclamation No. 1072/2018, electronic signatures became legal in Ethiopia.

In the Ethiopia, there are two primary types of electronic signatures:

  1. Electronic signature refers to information in electronic form, affixed to or logically associated with, an electronic message, which may be used to identify the signatory in relation to the electronic message and to indicate the signatory’s approval of the information contained in the electronic message. According to the Proclamation electronic message is information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic means. Electronic signatures use a wide variety of common electronic authentication methods to verify signer identity, such as email, corporate ID, password protection, or a PIN sent to a mobile phone. Proof of signing is demonstrated via a secured process that often includes an audit trail and a final tamper-evident digital certificate embedded into the completed signed document.
  2. Digital signature is defined as an electronic signature that uses asymmetric cryptosystem and meets the following requirements: a) it is uniquely linked to the signatory; b) it is capable of identifying the signatory; c) it is created using a private key that the signatory has sole control; and d) it is linked to the electronic message to which it relates in such a manner that any subsequent change of the electronic message or the signature is detectable.

Digital Signature uses a certificate-based digital ID to authenticate a signer’s identity. Certificates used in digital signatures are usually issued by a certificate authority (CA) and demonstrate proof of signing by binding the digital certificate associated with each signature to the document using encryption.

The information provided in this guide is intended to assist in understanding the legality of electronic signatures in Ethiopia.

Legal Recognition of Electronic Message

The proclamation gave legal recognition of electronic message. It provides that no electronic message shall be denied legal effect, validity or admissibility in any legal proceeding, solely on the ground that it is in electronic form. Where any law requires that information shall be in writing, such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such information is rendered or made available in an electronic form and accessible so as to be usable for subsequent reference.

Legal Recognition of Electronic Signatures

The electronic signature proclamation recognizes the legality of electronic signatures in Ethiopia. The Proclamation stipulates thatno electronic signature shall be denied legal effect, validity or admissibility as evidence in any legal proceeding, solely on the ground that it is in electronic form. Where any law or customary practice requires a signature of a person or provides consequences for the absence of a signature, that requirement is deemed to be satisfied where, reliable electronic signature is used in the light of all the circumstances: a) that is appropriate for the purpose for which the data message was generated or communicated; b) an agreement entered between parties regarding electronic signature; or c) considering other conditions such as the nature, extent, and type of the transaction, capability of identifying contracting parties, and the essence of the electronic message.

Legal Presumption Regarding electronic message

Furthermore, the Proclamation provides that in any civil proceedings involving electronic message signed with a reliable electronic signature, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that: 1/ the electronic signature is the signature of the subscriber; 2/ the electronic signature was affixed by that person with the intention of approving the electronic message; and 3/ the electronic message and the signature has not been altered since the specific point in time to which the electronic signature was affixed.

Reliability of Digital Signatures

The Proclamation states that a digital signature supported by valid certificate deemed to be reliable electronic signature. Such digital signatures shall enjoy shall enjoy the legal presumption stipulated for reliable electronic signature mentioned above.

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