Econet, ethiopia, Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet confirms Ethiopia investment bid

26 February 2020 | Melanie Mingas

Cover

The race to invest in Ethiopia’s telecommunications industry has intensified as another major industry player confirmed its intention to bid.  

Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet confirmed in a statement that it is “actively developing interests” in the nation of 100 million people, which experienced several extended internet outages in 2019.

Masiyiwa is Zimbabwe’s richest man – and only billionaire as of January 2020 – with an estimated fortune of $1.1 billion, despite losing half his fortune when Zimbabwe banned all foreign currencies last year.

Masiyiwa founded Econet Wireless in 1993, after what the company describes as a “five-year constitutional legal battle” that saw Zimbabwe’s state-dominated telecommunications sector dismantled.

Econet went public in 1998 and in 2018 completed the 60,000km Cape to Cairo fibre network. Year to date, Econet Wireless has seen a 100.43% gain on its share price.

Today, Masiyiwa serves as Econet’s founder and executive chairman, as well as chairman of Liquid Telecom, which recently announced intentions to enter the Eritrean market. He also owns stakes in other networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and interests in Africa’s fintech and power distribution sectors.

As Capacity previously reported, the Ethiopian government is keen to boost foreign investment and open up competition in its telecoms market through the privatisation of the state-owned national operator, Ethio Telecom – a move that will be overseen by KPMG.

Under the plan, two new operators will be licensed to compete with Ethio Telecom, while the new licensees would also be offered a stake in the firm. The government has previously hinted that Ethio Telecom could be split into two separate services and infrastructure companies.

Last June the Ethiopian government confirmed it is seeking $2.2 billion in investment and the following month said it would follow Myanmar’s example in selecting the new mobile operators.

“We have said clearly that public investment has run out of steam. We are not going to do unsustainable public investment,” state minister of finance Eyob Tekalign Tolina told Reuters last year.

Last week, in a statement issued to the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Safaricom also confirmed it is to engage a consortium of investors. Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd have also stated interests.