Telecom: France’s Orange eyes Ethiopia’s 100m-strong market
Orange is one of the leading contenders seeking to benefit from the end of state-controlled Ethio Telecom’s monopoly, pushed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
According to Reuters, the Ethiopian government aims to award telecom licenses by the end of 2019, with the new operators expected to launch services next year.
Orange’s Chief Financial Officer Ramon Fernandez told Reuters that a split of Ethio Telecom between an infrastructure provider and telecom service provider was unlikely.
Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and Sweden’s Ericsson have been involved in developing infrastructure for Ethio Telecom over the past few years.
Africa and the Middle East are Orange’s fastest-growing regions. The telecoms group controls 17 operators on the continent.
Ethiopia remains an untapped market. Ethio Telecom has surpassed MTN Nigeria to become the continent’s largest telecom service provider by subscriber numbers in 2017.
The sector liberalization has been an attractive prospect for investors even before Abiy Ahmed came to power, as the East African nation was the last large closed telecommunications market on the continent.
While the 100m-strong market is attractive, investors will face several significant challenges. The most prominent one is that the Ethiopian government has repeatedly switched off telecommunications services to curb protests.