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Ethiopia Widens Its Telecomm Market

FILE: Representative illustration of a mobile phone tower, taken May 4, 2021.

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia announced Friday it was relaunching the process to issue a second private telecommunications licence as it continues to open up the sector.

The Ethiopian Communications Authority said in a statement it "invites world-class telecommunications operators to come forward and take part in this exciting opportunity to operate within Ethiopia's rapidly growing economy."

Kenyan telecoms giant Safaricom last year became the first private telecommunications operator in Africa's second most populous country, ending a monopoly under the fully state-owned Ethio Telecom.

In 2021, Ethiopia had issued a tender for two telecoms licences, with one awarded to Safaricom, while a bid by South Africa's MTN was deemed too low and turned down.

In February, the Ethiopian government said it planned to sell up to 45 percent of Ethio Telecom, part of a push to open up the tightly controlled economy in the country of about 120 million people.

Ending the state monopoly in the telecoms sector is a key component of an economic reform package that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced after coming to power in 2018.

Safaricom switched on its network in Ethiopia in October last year and said in May it now has 2.1 million customers, with a goal of reaching 10 million next year.

Ethiopia's central bank also announced last month that it had issued a mobile money licence to Safaricom, the first granted to a foreign company.