Orange is considering a bid for a minority stake in Ethiopia’s state-owned phone monopoly as Africa’s second most populous country prepares to welcome foreign telecommunications investors for the first time.
The French carrier is also open to becoming a rival carrier to Ethio Telecom by taking part in an auction for a new privately held mobile phone licence, deputy CEO Ramon Fernandez said in an interview in London on Friday. Both options are likely to be made available by next year.
The Ethiopian government is working with advisers on how to open the country’s telecoms market to outside investors, Fernandez said. The prospect has attracted vocal interest from the biggest wireless carriers operating in Africa, including MTN Group, Vodacom Group and Paris-based Orange.
Orange’s Africa CEO, Alioune Ndiaye, travelled to Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa last week to meet local officials and other interested bidders, Fernandez said. The investment prospect is one of the last major economies to liberalise the telecoms industry, he said. “We’ll see what’s the best option for us.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his intention to privatise large swathes of the economy shortly after winning power in the former communist country in April of last year. The telecoms industry is seen as among the most attractive of those that could be opened up, given the country’s population of 100 million people and potential for data services and mobile money growth.
“It’s a major reform for any government and it’s going to be a long process,” Fernandez said, adding that the privatisation could take place this year or next. “We are ready. We are just waiting for the next steps to be carried out.” — Reported by Thomas Seal, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP