Ethiopia Plans To Privatize Its State-Owned Mobile Phone Monopoly

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Abiy Ahmed mobile phone monopoly
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is privatizing the state-owned mobile phone monopoly. Image – Saudi Press Agency via AP

Ethiopia plans to sell a minority stake in its state-owned mobile phone monopoly and award telecommunications licenses to two new operators in 2020.

Mobile operators including France-based Orange and South Africa’s MTN and Vodacom groups have all shown interest in the Ethiopian market, according to the Ethiopian finance ministry.


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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is opening up the telecoms sector as part of his agenda to boost one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and attract foreign investment, Bloomberg reported.

Putting an end to Ethiopia’s mobile phone monopoly

State-owned provider Ethio Telecom enjoys a monopoly in the East African country. The government expects the privatization to take effect through a competitive bidding process.

Privatization and competition are expected to boost mobile and internet penetration. 

Ethiopia has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in Africa, with around 60 phones per 100 inhabitants, according to Reuters.

Along with Orange, South Africa’s MTN and Vodacom have expressed an interest in the Ethiopian telecoms market, Mobileworldlive reports.

MTN is already the dominant telecommunications company in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, with 190 million people. Ethiopia,
— population, 105 million people — could be a major market for the South African firm, according to ITWebAfrica.

Before the privatization takes place, the Ethiopian government will structure Ethio Telecom into two parts, Techcentral reports.

The infrastructure division is expected to manage the international gateway and fibre-optic networks while mobile and retail operations are expected to be part of the new services unit.