The Ethiopian government has suspended the entry of foreign telecom infrastructure companies to the country, The EastAfrican reported. The decision may not affect foreign telecom service providers and operators that have submitted expressions of interest in buying a stake in Ethio Telecom, it added. The decision came after the government reviewed the list of companies intent on buying a 40 percent stake in the monopoly provider.
One of the last remaining telecoms monopolies in the world, Ethiopia is slowly moving towards liberalising its market, announcing in 2019 that it would be allowing two new service operators into the country, as well as selling a 40 per cent stake in incumbent Ethio Telecom.
As part of this liberalisation process, the Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) has reportedly been contacted by a number of telecoms infrastructure companies, including Helios Towers, hoping to gain entry to the country to build and lease infrastructure for the new operators.
Upon learning of this, however, Ethio Telecom had complained to the government, arguing that they have spent billions on infrastructure and if anyone should profit from leasing towers and fibre it should be them.
"We have built sufficient telecom infrastructures like fibre cables and mobile base masts that we can rent it to the newly entering companies. So the incoming telecom operators will either use our existing infrastructure by renting or build their own,” Ethio Telecom chief executive Frehiwot Tamiru told media recently.
The government has reportedly been responsive to the telco’s pleas, agreeing to suspend the entry of any foreign infrastructure companies into the market.