Ethiopia plans to sell a minority stake in the state-owned phone monopoly and award telecommunications licences to two new operators in the first quarter of next year, the finance ministry said.
The announcement comes as Paris-based Orange and the biggest wireless carriers operating on the continent, including MTN Group and Vodacom Group, have expressed interest in the market of Africa’s second most populous nation with 100 million people. Orange deputy CEO Ramon Fernandez said the French carrier is considering a bid for a stake in the government’s Ethio Telecom, but is also open to compete for a licence and become its rival.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is opening up the telecoms sector as part of his agenda to liberalise one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and attract more foreign capital.
The privatisation will be done through a competitive bidding process, the ministry said on Friday in a statement on its website.
Increased competition in telecoms will expand services to “underserved areas in the country, which is in line with the government’s goals of universal coverage”, the ministry said. “Partial privatisation of Ethio Telecom and private investment in the expanded telecoms market will also contribute to attracting foreign direct investment,” it said.
Firstly, the government will structure Ethio Telecom into two parts. The infrastructure division will manage the international gateway and fibre-optic networks, while cellular and retail operations will fall under the services unit. Ethiopia recently enacted a law that creates a new telecoms regulator to support the reforms.
Ethiopia also plans to sell at least five sugar factories in six to 12 months, according to the ministry. — Reported by Samuel Gebre, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP