Econet Global, owned by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, is keen to acquire a telecommunications licence in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.
The Horn of African nation has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications, and issue two new spectrum licences. Carriers including Orange, MTN and Vodacom have already shown interest in the nation of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and Internet access.
“Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia,” a company spokesman said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Given that there is a competitive process on new licences, it would not be appropriate at this stage to discuss our own positioning.”
Econet has operations in Africa in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, and investments in Europe and South America. Masiyiwa’s Liquid Telecom, Africa’s biggest fibre company, has assets across the continent.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalisation of the industry for early this year, but delayed the process because of elections to be held in August and also to give bidders for the new licences more time to prepare. It has yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.