Strive Masiyiwa’s Zimbabwean Firm Econet Bids For Ethiopian Mobile Operator License

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Strive Masiyiwa
Billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s telecoms firm Econet plans to bid for a newly available Ethiopian mobile operator license which is up for grabs in 2020. Businessman Strive Masiyiwa takes part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Thursday, May 12, 2016. Image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

Zimbabwean telecoms firm Econet Global is expected to join the bidding for a much-sought-after mobile license to operate in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is opening up its telecommunications industry to foreign investment for the first time. Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa plans to bid for a telecommunications license, according to Bloomberg.

Securing a license to offer mobile service in Ethiopia has been described as “the biggest prize left in Africa from a telecoms point of view” by Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom’s CEO Michael Joseph.

Until now, Ethiopia’s mobile industry has been run exclusively by the state-owned Ethio Telecom.

Ethiopia — population, 108 million people — is expected to award telecommunications licenses to two new operators in 2020, Moneyweb reports.

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

Government-owned provider Ethio Telecom enjoys a monopoly in the East African country. Ethio Telecom is expected to be partly privatized this year — as much as 49 percent of the firm is up for grabs, according to Bloomberg.

Econet is expected to go head-to-head with rivals including France-based Orange and South Africa’s MTN Group and Vodacom Group for the license.

The Kenyan telecoms firm Safaricom is considering a joint bid for the license alongside South Africa’s Vodacom.

A successful bid for the Ethiopian license is expected to cost in the region of $1 billion.

Masiyiwa is Africa’s 19th richest person but his fortune has more than halved since a year ago.

His net worth fell to $1.1 billion from $2.3 billion in January 2019 due to the introduction of a new weaker currency in Zimbabwe.

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Econet has operations in Africa in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, and investments in Europe and South America.

Econet Global’s subsidiaries include Econet Mobile Networks Group, Liquid Telecom, Cassava Smartech, Distributed Power Africa, Vaya Africa and Technites Africa.