With the deadline for bids for two nationwide telecoms concessions having passed yesterday (26 April 2021), the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) has now confirmed the receipt of two bids, one from South African telecoms giant MTN Group, and the other from a consortium comprising Kenya’s Safaricom, Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group, CDC Group and Sumitomo Corporation. In a press release regarding the matter, the ECA noted that an ‘extensive review’ of the final qualifying submissions will now be undertaken, following which it will select winning bids, with a formal announcement to be made after technical and financial evaluation is completed.
Commenting on the matter, ECA director Eng Balch was cited as saying: ‘We are delighted to have had interest from established telecoms operators from around the world, commensurate with this unprecedented opportunity … The ECA will be looking for the best all-round partners for the bids submitted and we are confident that competitive bidding will ensure that Ethiopia gets the best deal.’
As several companies had previously expressed interest in the concessions – such as Etisalat, Orange Group and Saudi Telecom Company – questions have been raised as to why only two bids were received. Among the suggestions for why would-be bidders have stayed away are: concerns over the current conflict in the northern Tigray region; economic concerns regarding repatriation of profits; and the fact that the concessions will not permit the winners to offer mobile phone-based financial services. Alongside this, CNBC Africa cites Brook Taye, a senior official at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance, as suggesting that some companies may be looking to invest in the country’s incumbent telecoms provider rather than acquire a new licence, with the executive saying: ‘It seems companies like Orange and Etisalat are more interested in buying a stake in Ethio Telecom’.