Ethiopia to sign infrastructure agreements with ZTE and Huawei

31 May 2013 | Kavit Majithia

Ethiopia will sign agreements with China’s ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies to expand its mobile infrastructure and double subscribers to 40 million.

A senior Ethiopian official said yesterday the country will sign agreements with the vendors in a few weeks, with ZTE already involved in developing phone and internet services in the country for a number of years.

Total subscribers across the continent totaled almost 650 million last year, up from a 25 million in 2001, according to the World Bank, and further signals economic growth across the region.

"We are now poised to start the expansion. We are almost on the final stage on dealing with ZTE and Huawei," said Debretsion Gebremichael, Ethiopia's deputy prime minister and minister of communications and technology.

"In a few weeks we will conclude the agreement and we will start the expansion," he said to Reuters.

Ethio Telecom, the country’s state owned entity is presently the only mobile operator in the country. Ethiopia is one of the last in the world to maintain a state monopoly in the industry.

Both Chinese firms will finance the project for future development, but the amount of value on the deal remains undisclosed.

Private companies in Ethiopia were permitted by the government last year to provide value added services, other than standardised voice calls, and regulators received applications for 218 firms to provide the services.

Debretsion told Reuters that preparations were also underway to launch mobile banking services, with Ethiopia and Zimbabwe now the only two countries in Africa not to offer the payment platform.