Phone monopoly is big prize in Ethiopia sell-off
By Maggie Fick, Joe Bavier
In the weeks since Ethiopia announced sweeping privatisation plans after decades of state control, foreign businessmen have been beating a path to Belachew Mekuria’s office.
“Everyone is here. MTN is here, Safaricom. I mean everyone is coming,” the new head of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) said of the stiff competition to enter the previously off-limits telecoms sector.
“A lot of them. Including U.S., by the way,” Belachew, an affable lawyer who is the first port of call for foreign investors, said with a smile following an evening meeting with an executive from Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom.
Of the industries facing privatisation – the government will also open up Ethiopian Airlines, the state logistics firm and the power monopoly to private investment – Ethiopia’s state telecommunications monopoly is the prize because of its huge protected market.
But the form liberalisation takes and the speed with which it is carried out will hinge on competition between the government’s two top priorities: raising foreign exchange and creating jobs.
Photo courtesy of Rob Tinworth.