Ethiopia Delays New Telecoms Licences

Customers at an Ethio Telecom branch in Addis Ababa. (Reuters photo by Tiksa Negeri)


By Dawit Endeshaw

Ethiopia Delays Award of New Telecoms Licences

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Ethiopia will delay beyond a March deadline the award of two telecoms licences to multinational mobile companies, responding to requests from interested bidders, State Minister of Finance Eyob Tekalign Tolina told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The timeline is probably too aggressive for most operators,” Eyob said in an interview in his office in the capital Addis Ababa.

“They have requested the government should … allow them enough amount of time to prepare and compete.” He said a new timeline will be announced in the next two weeks.

Reuters reported last June that Ethiopia would issue the licences by the end of 2019, quoting Ethiopian officials and telecoms executives with direct knowledge of the process.

Balch Reba, director general of the Ethiopian Communication Authority, then said in October that the government hoped to launch the bidding process early this year and award the licences by April 2020. Reba did not respond to requests for comments on the new timeline.

Zimbabwe Billionaire to Bid for Ethiopian Telecoms License (Bloomberg)

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa seeks to acquire a telecommunications license in Ethiopia. (Bloomberg)


Econet Global Ltd., owned by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, is keen to acquire a telecommunications license in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.

The Horn of African nation has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp., and issue two new spectrum licenses. Carriers including Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have already shown interest in the nation of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and internet access.

“Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia,” a company spokesman said in an emailed response to questions. “Given that there is a competitive process on new licenses, it would not be appropriate at this stage to discuss our own positioning.”

Econet has operations in Africa in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, and investments in Europe and South America. Masiyiwa’s Liquid Telecoms, Africa’s biggest fiber company, has assets across the continent.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalization of the industry for early this year, but delayed the process because of elections to be held in August and also to give bidders for the new licenses more time to prepare. It has yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.

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Ethiopia Red Tape Is Barrier for Business as Country Opens Up (Bloomberg)

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