With the lowest measured rate of surgery in the world, Ethiopia is faced with a number of challenges in providing surgical care. The aim of this study was to elucidate challenges in providing safe surgical care in Ethiopia, and solutions providers have created to overcome them. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 practicing surgeons in Ethiopia. Following de-identification and immersion into field notes, topical coding was completed with an existing coding manual. Codes were adapted and expanded as necessary, and the primary data analyst confirmed reproducibility with a secondary analyst. Qualitative analysis revealed topics in access to care, in-hospital care delivery, and health policy. Patient financial constraints were identified as a challenge to accessing care. Surgeons were overwhelmed by patient volume and frustrated by lack of material resources and equipment. Numerous surgeons commented on the inadequacy of training and felt that medical education is not a government priority. They reported an insufficient number of anaesthesiologists, nurses, and support staff. Perceived inadequate financial compensation and high workload led to low morale among surgeons. Our study describes specific challenges surgeons encounter in Ethiopia and demonstrates the need for prioritisation of surgical care in the Ethiopian health agenda. LCoGS: The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery; LMIC: low- and middle-income country.