Ethio-Telecom, the giant and sole telecom operator in Ethiopia, requested the government for a policy reform to expand in some parts of Eastern Africa.
In an exclusive interview with The Reporter, Andualem Admassie, Chief Executive Officer of Ethio-Telecom elucidated his company’s aspiration to go out and take advantage of neighboring countries potentials by tapping into that market.
“We are now asking the government to make an amendment on its telecom policy so that it could make us free to expand our presence in the region,” the CEO told The Reporter.
Members of the Ethio-Telecom board of directors like Debretsion Gebremichaeal (PhD), Minister of Communications and Information Technology with the portfolio of a Deputy Prime Minister is said to have support for this aspiration of the telecom operator.
Ethio-Telecom’s latest plan for a regional expansion is somehow contradictory with the Ethiopian government policy stance with regards to liberalizing its telecom sector, which is under the monopoly of Ethio-Telecom.
The CEO is also with a view similar to the government in liberalizing Ethiopia’s telecom sector.
“It is very early neither to liberalize the telecom sector in Ethiopia nor to provide second licenses,” he told The Reporter.
Countries like France sill hold some 30 percent stake on France Telecom, while it is only ten years since Poland has liberalized its telecom sector, Andualem said. But Ethiopians are still having economic issues to be solved, he added.
“For instance we have provided 20 billion birr financial support for the nation’s railway projects and we have reached 28 billion birr annual revenue this fiscal year,” Andualem said, explaining how his company is getting bigger and important for the government in terms of finance and as enabler of the remaining sectors.
With 47 million mobile subscribers Ethio-Telecom ranks as Africa’s second largest operator while it is 38th at the global level, according to the CEO, who referred the ranking to the third quarter report of the International Telecom Unit (ITU).
“With a capacity of managing such market base, we will swallow some of our neighboring operators, be it in Chad, Somalia or Sudan,” he said.
In a related news, some 10 international telecom companies are currently competing to get the latest expansion projects floated by Ethio-Telecom.
The company called on international vendors for planning, engineering, supply and testing of the expansion of the telecom network on a partial turnkey approach based on vendor financing scheme in nine telecom circles of the country. All the major players in world, NOKIA, Huawei, ZTE and Ericson have submitted their interest, according to Andualem, who reserved to detail their offers and the identity of the remaining vendors. According to him, the new expansion will focus on demand and augmentation work on power solutions, on the ecosystem such as creating a cloud center that will be used as disaster recovery for independent companies like banks and others.
“With this Invitation for Expression of Interest (IOE) we are keen to know the finance that companies will bring,” he said.
Getting finance and with no sovereign guarantee is the requirement for the tender, according to Andualem.