ETHIOPIA – 12 major telecom operators have shown interest in two licences that the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) plans to award to multinational mobile companies, breaking the state monopoly.

On its statement ECA said it has received complete information and expression of interest from the Global Partnership for Ethiopia (a consortium of telecom operators made of Vodafone, Vodacom, and Safaricom), Etisalat, Axian, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telkom SA, Liquid Telecom, Snail Mobile, and the two non-telecom operators, Kandu Global Telecommunications and Electromecha International Projects.

The prospective bidders were given one month to express their interest by submitting the requested information.

In the Expression of Interest, the prospective bidders were requested to provide information on their organizational structure, global operating footprint, details of countries of operation, number of mobile phone subscribers, and other relevant information that can help the authorities assess the strength of potential bidders and determine the adequate level of qualification criteria to select the type of operators that would fit best into the Ethiopian market.

Accordingly, on the closing date of June 22nd, 2020, the ECA received 12 submissions, of which 9 are telecom operators and 2 are non-telecom operators and 1 incomplete submission.

“The Ministry of Finance and ECA would like to thank all those potential bidders who have responded to the request and expressed their interest. As the ECA prepares for the next stage, it will keep the participants informed and engaged as the process moves forward. ECA remains fully committed to fulfill Ethiopia’s telecommunications sector reform and enhance its digital transformation,” the statement said.

The Ethiopian Communications Authority said the licenses will be awarded through a competitive bidding process, but did not clarify a deadline for it.

“This is the initial stage. We will soon have…the second stage,” said Balch Reba, director-general of the Ethiopian Communication Authority.

The issuing of licences will open up one of the world’s last major closed telecoms markets in the country of around 110 million. Ethiopia is currently one of the most attractive destinations not only for its huge population (109.2 million) but also the untapped potential in the industry.

The country telecom sector has been led by Ethio Telecom, a monopoly that has lasted for almost a century. This has hindered any other telco company whether local or foreign from conducting any business but it is all set to change soon enough.

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