Bids are now in for two new telecoms operating licences in Ethiopia – and two bidders have advanced to the next stage of the process.
The news from the country’s finance ministry is that the two bids came from South Africa’s MTN and a consortium that includes Kenya's Safaricom, Vodafone, Vodacom, CDC Group (a UK development finance institution) and Japanese global trading and business investment company Sumitomo Corporation.
The next stage will, according to the Ethiopian authorities, involve technical and financial evaluation. However, according to Reuters, a senior advisor at the finance ministry believes it should not take more than a week for the winners of the licences to be announced.
This activity is all part of plans to open up Ethiopia's economy – and in particular its telecoms industry; this is one of the world’s last closed telecoms markets.
There have been a number of recent delays to this process, most recently in early April when the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) extended the deadline for operators bidding for new operating licences from 5 April to 26 April. This happened after requests by bidders for more time due to issues relating to the pandemic.
At the time, it was believed that Orange and China’s Sharing Mobile would be among the bidders, although some companies may be more attracted by the prospect of the forthcoming sale of a 45 percent stake in state-owned operator Ethio Telecom.
The bid winners will secure full operating licences, but they will not be allowed to operate mobile phone-based financial services, government officials said last year. However, Ethio Telecom has said it plans to launch a mobile money transfer service, which may make it an even more attractive proposition.
Successful bidders for the two new licences will be required to set up their own network infrastructure.