The Ethiopian Communications Authority opened its tender to award two nationwide full-service telecommunications licenses through auction, opening the door for international companies to bid in 2021.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is pressing ahead with the auction of the new licenses and the sale of a 45% stake in state monopoly Ethio Telecoms, in spite of a military conflict in the northern Tigray region.
“We have now arrived at a crucial moment,” said Brook Taye, a senior adviser at the finance ministry.
In a statement, the watchdog said bidders have until March 5 2021 to submit their final pitches to take part in its competitive bidding process. Interested parties also have until 10 December to request terms and conditions. The winning two will be announced within 14 days, said Eyob Tekalign Tolina, state minister at the ministry of finance.
Winners will be given full operating licenses in Ethiopia, but they will not be allowed to offer mobile phone-based financial services, Eyob said. They will also be required to set up their own network infrastructure like cellphone towers, Brook said.
The authority said it aims to attract “world-class telecommunications operators” to bag the up for grabs licenses to support “Ethiopia’s rapidly growing economy”.
The announcement comes as part of plans to open the formerly closed-off telecommunications market to foreign investors, in a bid to spur the development of the sector and boost the economy. For winning bidders, is one of the last remaining untapped markets in the world, with a population of over 100 million to connect.
Eyob dismissed concerns that the fighting in the north was a worry for investors, saying the federal government troops have encircled local Tigrayan forces around the regional capital of Mekelle.
Interested parties to have submitted an interest to enter the Ethiopian market including Vodacom, Orange, STC, MTN Group, and Telkom SA amongst 12 confirmed.