Newcomer Safaricom Ethiopia has committed to switch on its first commercial services in a limited area next month, when it will become the country’s first privately-owned mobile operator.
At a press conference, Safaricom Ethiopia stated the phased launch would begin in the city of Dire Dawa before expanding to 24 cities across the nation by April 2023.
In a wide-ranging update, the fledgling operator noted it had already employed 500 staff and was continuing recruitment, including trying to attract local graduates. It has also opened supply chain tenders to find new partners in the country.
Safaricom Ethiopia’s network will comprise its own infrastructure run alongside wholesale agreements and infrastructure sharing with state-owned rival Ethio Telecom.
The launch marks the culmination of a long-held government aim to open up the sector, which it believes will provide competition to the current monopoly, increase investment into the country and improve network coverage.
Safaricom and its backers won a tender process to secure the licence in 2021. Originally authorities had offered up two fresh licences, but turned down MTN after its bid did not meet the authority’s expectations.
The Ethiopia Communications Authority subsequently reopened the process to find a third player in September 2021, but suspended it three months later announcing it had received “concerns and requests from prospective bidders to delay the process and issue the RFP at a convenient time in the future”.