Twelve international firms will battle it out for a way into the Ethiopian market

Having long been a forbidden fruit for telcos, the Ethiopian telecoms market is finally opening up to foreign participation. Ethio Telecom’s monopoly on the country’s communications has lasted almost a century, but a radical policy shift by the nation’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed will see 40% of the Ethio Telecom sold, as well as two operating licences granted to foreign investors.
With a population of nearly 110 million, Ethiopia is a telecoms market with unrivalled potential for growth, and the start of 2020 saw much speculation regarding potential bidders for the two licences that will soon become available.
Safaricom has long been interested in entering the Ethiopian market, officially confirming it would bid for a licence earlier this month, but did not confirm details. As expected, the Kenyan operator is not alone in expressing interest and on Friday the Ethiopian communications regulator confirmed that 12 companies have registered bids for a licence. 
Earlier this year, Safaricom announced that it was looking for partners for its potential bid and it seems this wish has been granted by Vodafone and Vodacom, with the operators bidding together under a consortium named the Global Partnership for Ethiopia. Other operators who registered bids are Etisalat, Axian, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telkom SA, Liquid Telecom, and Snail Mobile. 
Two non-operators also registered bids: Kandu Global Telecommunications and Electromecha International Projects.
As part of the bidding process, each of the potential entrants will have to provide detailed information regarding their organisation to the regulator. The timeline for the bidding process itself has yet to be announced, but Balch Reba, director-general of the Ethiopian Communication Authority, said that the second stage will begin “soon”.
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