Ethiopia: Safaricom denies expansion into Ethiopian market

Ethiopia: Safaricom denies expansion into Ethiopian market

Kenyan operator Safaricom has denied reports of the company entering the Ethiopian market, the EastAfrican reported. Reports claimed that it was in negotiations with the Ethiopian government for a stake in state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom. CEO Bob Collymore said Safaricom is not engaged in any conversations with Ethio Telecom on this matter, stressing that any information to the contrary is completely inaccurate.

Ethiopian media reported in the past week that the government had opened discussions with Safaricom on the sale of half of the shares of Ethio Telecom. Other reports indicated that Safaricom was discussing a mobile money partnership with an Ethiopian bank.

Ethio Telecom offers slow, expensive and unreliable phone and internet services. Kenya’s Principal Secretary in-charge of ICT Victor Kyalo said he had seen a tweet about the transaction. Kyalo said it was not clear whether it is Safaricom or Vodacom. He tried to check, but nobody seems to know any information.

Ethiopian satellite broadcaster Esat reported that both the sale of Ethio Telecom shares to Safaricom and the sale of the Addis Ababa Hilton Hotel to Ethiopian-born Saudi tycoon Mohammed Hussein Alamoudi were part of the authorities’ efforts to ease the forex crunch in the country and tackle indebtedness.

Speculation about Safaricom’s moves in Africa has intensified since May, when Vodafone Group consolidated its 35 percent ownership of Safaricom to its African subsidiary, Vodacom Group. At Safaricom’s annual general meeting two weeks ago, Collymore said that the ownership changes at the top allowed the company to set up shop in under-served areas in the region.