Ethiopia Offers New Hope for Phone Providers With African Dreams
By Thomas Seal, Nizar Manek and Angelina Rascouet
Yabsira Tadesse had no trouble getting a new SIM card when he popped into an Ethio Telecom store in northern Addis Ababa the other day. He still thinks it’s intolerable that the state-owned behemoth is the only option for phone and internet users in a country of 100 million.
“The status quo is terrible,” the 22-year-old student said, standing next to a dirty sign displaying the company’s green logo. As the owner of a fledgling cryptocurrency business, Yabsira is dependent on Ethio Telecom’s occasionally patchy service. He also said he fears the state uses the group to spy on him. If a new wireless carrier “can come here and government lets them be competitive, I would be the first to line up and support it.”
Yabsira’s wish may be about to come true. As part of an ambitious reform program, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed plans to award telecommunications licenses to two private operators next year, and sell a minority stake in Ethio Telecom. The hope is the move will boost foreign direct investment into an economy long hostile to international companies, while expanding internet services in rural areas.