MTN, Vodafone Chase Untapped Ethiopian Telecom Market

Ethiopia Smartphone

Two wireless service providers are seeking telecom licenses in Ethiopia, which is the fastest-growing economy in Africa and a place with a largely untapped telecommunications market. That’s according to Bloomberg News, which reported on Monday (April 26) that MTN Group Ltd. and a consortium headed by Vodafone Group Plc have submitted bids for a license. Ethiopian officials will reportedly take a few days to review the technical proposals before opening the financial bids.

“Ethiopia, Africa’s most populated nation after Nigeria, is poised to expand 8.7 percent next year, according to the International Monetary Fund, making it the fastest-growing economy on the continent,” the report stated. “That’s even as the nation battles multiple crises, including a civil conflict in the northern Tigray region, that’s threatened Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s economic transformation agenda.”

Safaricom Plc, Kenya’s biggest telecommunications company, has said it was bidding on one license jointly with Vodafone. As PYMNTS reported earlier this month, the two companies collaborated to acquire the payments platform M-PESA.

“We always wanted quality providers and this is what we have received,” said Brook Taye, an adviser to Ethiopia’s finance ministry. “These are two African giants — the Safaricom-led consortium and MTN — either one or two of the operators will get a license in Ethiopia.”

Bloomberg noted that Ethiopia is a coveted prize for global telecom providers, as the country has more than 110 million people, less than half of whom are telecom subscribers, making it one of the world’s few remaining untouched markets. Ethiopia is aiming to give out two full-service telecommunications licenses in a bid to bring in more foreign investment. Some companies have withdrawn their bids, as the licenses do not allow access to Ethiopia’s mobile-based financial services market.

Earlier this month, MTN announced plans to value its mobile money service at $5 billion. The company had 46 million mobile money users last year.