12 companies bid for Ethiopian telecom market

Twelve telecommunication companies have thrown their hat into the race for the Ethiopian telecom market.

Some of Africa’s giant telecom operators are also bidding for the process, which is expected to liberalise the industry in the Eastern African country, and also break the back of state-owned, Ethio Telecom’s monopoly.

In a statement, the Ethiopia Communications Authority (ECA) said that of the 12 submissions, nine were from telecoms operators, two were from non-telecoms companies and one was incomplete.

South Africa’s MTN, and a joint South African-Kenyan-British bid from Vodafone, Vodacom, and Safaricom are part of the African interest.

Saudi Telecom Company and a French service provider, Orange, are part of the bidders gunning for the two licenses the Ethiopian telecom provider wants to issue.

The ECA is hopeful the “operators that would fit best into the Ethiopian market.”

“This is the initial stage. We will soon have… the second stage,”  Reuters quoted the ECA’s head, Balch Reba, as saying.

Phone and internet business in Africa’s second-most populous country, with an estimated 109 million people, rests on Ethio Telecom.

According to the World Bank, the decision to liberalise the telecom industry could transform the market and boost the number of mobile subscribers, which stood at 37 million in 2017.

On June 13, Ethiopia’s parliament passed a law to liberalise the telecommunications sector, at a time the country endured a week-long internet blackout.

The law, dubbed the Communication Regulatory Proclamation, repealed several pre-existing ones on which the country’s state-owned telecoms monopoly, Ethio Telecom, was built.

It sets the legal framework for a new telecoms regulatory authority that will issue licences to private investors.

The new law also says that ownership of telecoms companies “shall be open without limitation to private investors, including both domestic investors and foreign investors”.

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