Safaricom Ethiopia, the Vodacom-led telco consortium, gets operating license in Ethiopia

The Vodacom-led telco consortium, also called Global Partnership for Ethiopia Consortium, has finally received an operating license by the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA). The new telecoms operator (or brand) will be called Safaricom Ethiopia.

In a letter issued on July 14, 2021, the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) states that it has issued a
Telecommunications Operator License for a new Telecommunications Service Licensee.

“Pursuant to Articles 40 and 41 of the Tender Regulations, the Designated Licensee (Global Partnership for Ethiopia) shall incorporate a local company within forty-five (45) calendar days following the designation date, and the local company shall execute the Provisional License Agreement executed by the parent company within three (3) working days of the commercial registration date,” states ECA in the letter.

“Accordingly, the Designated Licensee and parent company, Global Partnership for Ethiopia, has incorporated and registered its local company Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, and the local company has executed the final License Agreement in due time. Hence, the ECA has granted a nationwide full-service Unified Telecommunications Service License to the Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC effective from 9 July 2021, valid for a term of fifteen (15) years from the Effective Date, and renewable for additional terms of fifteen (15) years subject to fulfillment of all license obligations.”

The issuance of the operating license follows the appointment of Anwar Soussa (pictured) as the MD of Safaricom Ethiopia, effective July 1, 2021. Soussa will report to the Board of the Ethiopia entity and Safaricom CEO, Peter Ndegwa.

Towards the end of June this year, it was announced that Kenya’s telco Safaricom, its South African shareholder Vodacom and UK’s Vodafone had partnered and submitted a joint bid for the two new full-service telecom licenses in Ethiopia.

Working under the umbrella of Global Partnership for Ethiopia, the three telecom operators’ consortium was among the 12 interested parties that expressed interest to be awarded one of the possible licences that were to be issued by the Ethiopian government.

On May 21, 2020, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance and the country’s Communications Authority (ECA) launched Expression of Interest (EoI) process for the issuance of two full-service telecom.

Up until then, Ethiopia’s telecom’s industry had been a monopoly only served by the government controlled Ethio Telecom.

After the launch of the EoI process, the prospective bidders were given one month to express their interest by submitting the requested information. In the EoI, the prospective bidders were requested to provide information on their organizational structure, global operating footprint, details of countries of operation, number of mobile phone subscribers, and other relevant information that can help the authorities assess the strength of potential bidders and determine the adequate level of qualification criteria to select the type of operators that would fit best into the Ethiopian market.

Accordingly, on the closing date of June 22, 2020, the ECA received 12 submissions, out of which 9 are telecom operators and 2 are non-telecom operators and 1 incomplete submission.

In mid last year, the Ethiopia government announced that it plans to issue two telecoms licences to multinational telcos and also offer a minority stake in Ethio Telecom, the monopoly operator.

Ethiopia’s telecoms industry is considered the big prize in a push to liberalise the country’s economy launched by PM Abiy Ahmed because of its huge protected market serving a population of around 100 million.

The country has for long been considered by potential investors as one of the final frontiers globally for multinational telcos keen to expand into new and potentially lucrative markets.


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