Kenyan telecom company Safaricom confirmed its bid last weekend for the licence into the Ethiopian market. This was made clear by the company’s CEO, Peter Ndegwa, who said that the company has already made efforts to get one of the two licences made available in Ethiopia.
The country has over 100 million people all of whom have been served by just one state-owned operator, Ethio Telecom. The market has never opened up for any other African operators but that seems to change very soon.
The Ethiopian government announced last month that the monopoly was being liberalised and would be inviting licence bids from foreign telcos.
Safaricom has since been one of the frontrunners in the race to acquire one of the licences, which has been estimated to be worth around KES105 billion. About four months ago, the company was reportedly looking for partners willing to form a consortium for the licence bid. However, Mr Ndegwa did not mention any partners last week.
Other rivals have are also reported to be looking to invest in the market including MTN, Orange as well as Zimbabwe’s richest man, Strive Masiyiwa, owner of South Africa’s Econet.
The process of liberalising Ethiopia’s telecom market was actually meant to take place sooner. But the country’s elections and the ongoing pandemic forced everything else to delay. Now, it seems unlikely that the new licence holders will be selected this year.
Safaricom had also tried to get M-PESA into the Ethiopian market early this year, a pitch that was unfortunately turned down. This was a part of Safaricom’s and Vodacom’s effort to turn the service into “Africa’s largest unbanked bank”, according to Vodafone CEO Nick Read.
Nevertheless, Peter Ndegwa did confirm that the company is still looking to expand into yet more markets across the continent.