Ethiopia cancels process for international telecoms licence -official

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia has cancelled a process seeking an international telecoms licence, a senior adviser at the finance ministry said on Friday, further delaying the potential entry of a third operator.

The Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) launched the procedure, known as Request for Qualification, in June, after reviving the tender process in November last year. It had been suspended in December 2021 after proposals were sought that September.

“The licence process has been terminated. We had not launched a request for bids yet, because we wanted to assess market potential and readiness,” Hinjat Shamil, the senior adviser at the ministry overseeing the bidding process, told Reuters.

“The market interest didn’t match ours for now to launch the RFP (Request for Proposals),” she said.

Ethiopia’s telecoms industry is considered a big prize in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s push to liberalise the economy after he took over in 2018, thanks to a large population of about 120 million.

Ethiopia is also seeking to sell up to 45% stake in state-run operator Ethio Telecom to an international company, a process which was also revived in November 2022.

On Thursday, State Minister of Fiscal Policy and Public Finance Eyob Tekalign told Reuters some companies had submitted qualifications for the second international licence but that it might take longer to find a suitable candidate than anticipated.

A consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom launched its mobile network in Ethiopia in October last year, becoming the first private operator alongside former monopoly Ethio Telecom.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Duncan Miriri and Jason Neely)