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Ethiopia: Opening up Ethiotel to competition will be a big challenge

By Quentin Velluet
Posted on Thursday, 3 June 2021 13:01

Ethio Telecom headquarters in Addis Ababa. Eric Lafforgue/Hans Lucas

Ethio Telecom is increasingly the object of criticism within Addis Ababa’s highest spheres of influence. This has encouraged the Ethiopian government to initiate plans to partially privatise it as soon as possible.

Aware that its monopoly on the Ethiopian market will soon be nothing more than an old dream, Ethio Telecom (Ethiotel) has been preparing for several months to compete with its new adversary, the consortium formed by Britain’s Vodafone.

After proposing to buy mobile phones on credit, the operator with 50 million mobile customers recently launched financial services with Telebirr. This new service, which primarily targets rural areas, claims to have acquired one million customers just one week after its launch on 11 May, and expects to attract 21 million within a year.

A mobile money novice

But some experts – like this entrepreneur, who is familiar with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration – are much more sceptical about this service that was created in five months by Huawei.