Ethiopian PM hands telecoms licence to Vodafone consortium

Ethiopian PM hands telecoms licence to Vodafone consortium

11 June 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Ethiopia has officially granted the Safaricom Vodacom Vodafone partnership with its telecoms licence, allowing it to compete with Ethio Telecom, the monopoly until this week.

Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed presented the licence at a ceremony (pictured, from the PM’s Twitter feed) in Addis Ababa, attended by Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, where Safaricom is based, as well as Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa and Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.

The consortium — officially the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, backed by US and UK government finance — said it will start operations within six months. The government announced the decision to award the licence just two and a half weeks ago. At the time the alliance said it will spend US$8 billion on building the network. Sumitomo is also a member of the partnership, which paid $850 million for the licence.

Joosub said: “All the individual organisations represented in our consortium are united in our commitment to bring positive social change in Ethiopia through the technology we provide.”

South African company MTN also bid for a contract, but only $600 million, and Ethiopia decided not to award a licence. There are rumours that Ethiopia will re-visit the issue and perhaps invite more bids for a further licence.

Minister of finance Ahmed Shide said: “This is only the first step. We will continue to work together with partners and investors to build a modern and open telecommunications sector to improve connectivity, productivity and economic growth in Ethiopia.”

Joosub said: “All over the world, we are long-term investors with a clear goal of helping countries digitise and grow their economies, for the benefit of people in all parts of society and in all regions.”