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Safaricom might delay Ethiopia launch to late 2022

Safaricom data centre.jpg

Safaricom has delayed the launch of services in Ethiopia, originally expected in April, and is not yet giving a new date.

A statement published on social media by the company, part of the Vodafone family, could be taken to mean the company will launch at the end of 2022.

“We are preparing for commercial launch to provide services within 2022,” said the statement, which says the company is continuing network build-out, recruitment of staff, “and testing our services to ensure we provide a world-class network and customer experience across the country”.

The delay – already almost three months – will give its state-owned monopoly rival, Ethio Telecom, a further advantage in its fight against a new competitor.

Safaricom Ethiopia’s website, https://safaricom.et/, still reads only “site under maintenance”. The regulator, the Ethiopian Communications Authority, provides no further clue to a launch date.

Capacity asked a senior Vodafone executive at a meeting earlier this week when Safaricom might start. “When they’re ready,” the executive said.

All this is in sharp contrast to the positive outlook by Matthew Harrison-Harvey, the company’s chief external affairs and regulatory officer, who said in an interview with Capacity in March that the company planned to launch services on 9 April.

Next week will see the first anniversary of Safaricom being named as the only competitor so far.

Safaricom Kenya, which is 35% owned by Vodacom and 5% by Vodafone, owns 55.7% of the Ethiopian start-up. Vodacom itself has 6.2%. Sumitomo of Japan has 27.2% and the UK government – via its aid agency, CDC, now called British International Investment – owns 10.9%.

Nokia will supply the core network and coverage of Addis Ababa, the capital, while Huawei will serve the rest of the country, Harrison-Harvey told Capacity in March.

In its social media posting this week, Safaricom Ethiopia said that it will be providing updates next week.

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