Safaricom is officially bidding for one of the two mobile licences that Ethiopia will make available to foreign investors.
Speaking to business outlet The Standard, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa confirmed that the company had submitted an expression of interest to Ethiopia’s telecom authorities, confirming longstanding speculation among industry observers.
The Kenyan operator has enlisted two partners to aid its bid. Ndegwa declined to name either in his interview, although it likely has the support of its parent firm Vodacom.
The Ethiopia Communications Authority opened a consultation in April to establish guidelines around new companies entering the market. It is currently in the process of breaking up the longstanding monopoly of Ethio Telecom, the state carrier. To this end, it is planning to sell a 40% stake in the operator.
Interest in Ethiopia extends well beyond Safaricom and other companies associated with the Vodafone Group. Some of Africa’s largest telecom groups, including MTN and Orange, have expressed an interest in entering the Ethiopian market now that the government has opened the telecoms sector to foreign investment.
Orange is present in 18 markets across Africa. The group’s CEO Stephane Richard recently told Les Echos that in addition to its stated interest in Ethiopia, the firm was open to expanding into other African markets including Nigeria and South Africa. He noted that the group had the resources to enact such a move within a timescale of less than a year.
The ECA has delayed its planned decision on awarding the new licences into next year due to the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.