Potential second telecom entrants now at liberty to express interest in February

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Balcha Reba, Director General of ECA

The Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) is gearing to issue an expression of interest in early February 2023 for the third telecom provider, the authority’s Director General reveals.
This comes at the back of the authority publishing a call for a stakeholder consultation process for the third telecommunications operating license on November 16 2022.
“ECA has now resumed the licensing process for a third license or the second new full-service nationwide telecommunications license,” said Balcha Reba, ECA Director General, indicating that the country has huge potential to serve an additional telecom operator. “We have invited different international consultation companies to evaluate the document,” he added.
In the overall process the regulator has been keen in inviting potential bidders and any interested parties to participate in a consultation process, and as Balcha expressed, “Preparations are underway to float an expression of Interest to bring potential investors who can acquire the third license or the second new full-service license.”
According to the stakeholder consultation document, the license will be awarded via a competitive tender process that will take place in early 2023. Similarly, after assessing the cover of all responses of stakeholders for the next one month, it will float the expression of interest on early February which will stay up for one month. With regards to other financial ventures, the prospected new entrant is said to be allowed provision of mobile financial services following its fulfillment of the requirements of the National Bank of Ethiopia.
On October 2018, the Government announced its decision to proceed with the reform of the Ethiopian telecommunications sector to further the implementation of the Government’s Economic Reform Agenda and to introduce greater competition in the telecommunications sector in the context of improving market conditions.

Balcha Reba, Director General of ECA (Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

On June 2020, the government had floated a bid for two additional telecom licenses and on the process after selecting only one new operator ECA cancelled the other license B bid.
Following the cancellation, ECA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the second new full service nationwide Telecommunications Service License on September 28th, 2021 and the bidding process was ongoing. However, the process was terminated in December 2021 as ECA stated that the bidding process has temporarily been relinquished as per the request of bidders. On the follow up, ECA said in a note to the industry that it had received, “concerns and requests from several prospective bidders to delay the process.”
The bid now sees its third refloat after having failed twice.
On May 31, 2021, the ECA issued Ethiopia’s first-ever competitively-tendered Unified Telecommunications Operator License (“License A”) to the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a private consortium consisting of Safaricom (Kenya), Vodafone Group (UK), Vodacom Group (South Africa), CDC Group (UK), and Sumitomo Corporation (Japan) now operating under the name Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia.
Currently, the government is also in the process of selling a 40% stake in the state-owned Ethio Telecom.