|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Tribal Despotism|
|Number of provinces||8|
|Center of Trade||None|
|Other accepted cultures||Somali|
Ethiopia is the only Christian nation in Africa in 1399. It is poor, tribal, extremely technologically backwards, and surrounded by hostile Muslim states, several of which have an enormous tech advantage. Merely surviving long enough to Westernize is difficult.
You have eight provinces, only three of which have your state religion. Aside from Kefa, which has gold, all are poor and lacking in manpower. Your only visible neighbor is Adal. South of Adal are the African-tech Muslim Swahili and pagan Mutapa. Across the Red Sea (which has a crossable strait at its southern end) are Yemen and the other Arabian states. To your north (and not visible until you start discovering neighbor provinces) are the extremely dangerous Mamluks.
In Divine Wind, the Mamluks will almost always attack you within 20 or 30 years, and you cannot beat them, unless you get extremely lucky and strike just as they are getting mauled by some combination of the Ottomans, the Timurids and Europeans, but this isn't something you can count on. But there is a way out. Immediately attack Adal. Since neither of you has forts, don't try to win by defeating their armies. Instead, occupy as must of their country as you can while retaking provinces they march into. Take their southern-most province, which will reveal the northernmost Swahili territory, and vassalize the rest of the country. Then, sell your northern province to Adal. The Mamluks will no longer share a border with you, and you are safe from attack.
You should now expand south. Taking provinces indiscriminately is not a good idea, since if you get more than 10 provinces, you will have Tribal Succession Crisis when your leader dies, which will be extremely hard to survive until you reach Land 3 and can build forts. But taking a few gold provinces off Mutapa can dramatically boost your economy. Attack Swahili, take their southern province (to border Mutapa), and vassalize them as well. Then sell Adal back the first (worthless) province you took off them. Now that you can see Mutapa, attack and secure their gold.
Expansion and waiting to Westernize
With your neighbors subdued, and borders with your far more dangerous enemies avoided, you can wait out the century or so it will take to westernize in peace. Keep canceling your mission until you get a core-granting one on a coastal province. When you're ready to Westernize, taking this province will let you immediately build ships.
Check carefully to see if the Mamluks or Yemen get a core (via a border dispute) on any province you can see. Taking this province becomes an interesting option: it will expose you to threats, but also let you recruit the vastly superior Muslim units. With your low manpower, the Mamluks will probably still be too strong to fight, but some expansion in Arabia is possible if you get lucky.
DW made Africans gain tech much faster below level 5, so some research is possible before Westernizing. Your first priority should be Land 2, for improved tactics (making fighting rebels less painful) and Land 3 (for forts, which you should immediately build everywhere). After that, focus on Government, both for the first National Idea, and to more quickly reach Government level 10 post-westernizing, allowing you to reform your government.
It may be tempting to try to convert your non-Orthodox provinces, but don't try this until you have forts built. Zealot rebels may actually end up turning some of your Orthodox provinces animist! Similarly, although you are the only African nation that gets colonists, don't bother expanding into the nearby uncolonized territory. It is very poor and it will put you over the Tribal limit.
Westernizing requires having a sufficiently advanced neighboring nation. For the first step, any Muslim-tech nation should be sufficient. For subsequent steps, you will need a Latin-tech neighbor, which can be tricky to find. If Europeans have been plundering North Africa, as they usually do, one option is to bribe the Mamluks into granting you military access, and then attack Tripoli or another weak state to get a border with Europeans. You can also go for Quest for the New World, sail around the Cape of Good Hope, and get a border elsewhere (West Africa is often a possibility), although getting your tech high enough to take the idea will be difficult even with the Muslim tech-group.
With the Latin tech group reached, the neighbor bonus will pull you up to European technology levels within 20 or so years. Where you go next is up to you. Arabia is near and easily defeated, though poor. If you want to expand in Europe and Asia, it will be helpful to keep a contiguous empire, since distant provinces aren't considered overseas if there is a land connection - this means advancing up through Egypt, into Syria and then west through Anatolia or east across Mesopotamia and Persia. Colonization is also a possibility. South Africa is quite rich, and Indonesia isn't too far away either. Although your initial sliders aren't good for trading, spending a few decades pushing Free Trade and taking Shrewd Commerce Practice and National Trade Policy will eventually solve your money problems.
As an Orthodox nation, your only coreligionists are likely to be Russian minors (since Russia rarely forms in DW) and perhaps a Byzantine remnant. It may be useful to convert to Catholicism in order to have a better diplomatic situation. To do this, declare war on a weak Catholic country (Irish minors work), and when they're willing to negotiate, offer a "forced conversion" in the peace deal.