Ethiopia has reportedly set a new deadline of February 2021 to complete the sale of two new mobile network operator (MNO) licences that will open up the country’s telecoms sector. Bloomberg reports that with the original timeline for the introduction of competition having been pushed back as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory complexities and a delayed general election, the new timetable was confirmed by Eyob Tekalign, Ethiopia’s state minister of finance. Commenting on the plans to license new players, as well as the plan to divest a stake in state-owned incumbent Ethio Telecom, the minister said: ‘We have a February, January timeline for both processes … The reform is fully on track.’
Meanwhile, the report suggests that France’s Orange Group is a strong candidate to secure one of the new concessions that will be offered, according to ‘people familiar with the matter’. A spokesperson for Orange reiterated the company’s interest in the licence, and said it was working on its proposal in this regard. With MTN Group highlighted as another notable potential bidder, a spokesperson for the South Africa-based company said: ‘The Ethiopian authorities have said that twelve directives will be issued that will enable us to put together a business case and an investment case … This is still work in progress and we have not yet made any decision on the opportunity.’
Finally, with regards to the sale of a stake in Ethio Telecom, this process is reportedly proving harder for the authorities, in part related to the size of the stake – 40% – that is to be offered to international investors. Deloitte LLP, which is advising the Ethiopian government on the partial privatisation, had not responded to Bloomberg’s request for comment on this matter, however.