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Ethiopia officially opens up bidding for second licence

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Ethiopia , 03 Aug 2021

In keeping with its intention to liberalise its telecommunications industry, Ethiopia will allow its second privately run mobile firm to offer mobile wallet services after announcing Monday that it will re-open bids for another permit.

Safaricom, under a consortium that included Vodafone and Vodacom, won the first private permit to build and operate a mobile licence in the country earlier this year.

Ethiopia has hurried to address concerns that plagued the bid for the first licence.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been criticised of protecting Ethio Telecom’s Telebirr mobile wallet when it announced that the Safaricom consortium would only launch mobile money services one year after winning the bid.

“Ethiopians have (been) forbidden by law to dream of a venture in Telecom and Fintech without a bank,” said technology analyst Ado Woldu.

Woldu and other experts now want Ethiopia to “open Telebirr API and let us enterprise first” by roping in value added services to the mobile money platform.

Allowing the second private mobile firm company to speedily roll out mobile money services will also open up opportunities for further development of the country’s Fintech market.

“That builds the ground,” said Woldu.

According to Reuters, a mobile wallet permit will be incorporated into the second licence and bidding is now open.

"We have made some changes that can uplift its value, for instance mobile financial service," Balcha Reba, Director General of the Ethiopian Communication Authority, was quoted saying.

Ethiopia, which is also battling a crisis in the Tigray region and has been criticised for human rights abuses in the region, has drafted the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation as transaction adviser in the new bidding process, Reuters reported, quoting Brook Taye, a senior adviser at the country’s treasury.

South Africa is among operators that have said they might make a bid for the second private telecom licence in Ethiopia. The East African country had looked to award two permits but had only received two bids and decided to scrap awarding of the second licence, hence it is now keen to call for fresh bids.

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