Ruto in Addis as Safaricom officially takes on Ethio Telecom

Kenyan President William Ruto and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

President William Ruto and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on October 6, 2022. PHOTO | PSCU

President William Ruto arrived in Ethiopia Thursday morning for his first official visit that includes, among other bilateral issues, the national launch of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia (STE) in the capital Addis Ababa.

Kenya’s biggest telco, Safaricom, is the major shareholder in the Ethiopian venture with a 55.7 percent stake, it co-owns with UK’s Vodafone, South Africa’s Vodacom, Sumitomo Corporation and British International Investment.

STE is the first telco to offer competitive mobile services to State-owned Ethio Telecom. The consortium that owns the firm – Global Partnership for Ethiopia – was awarded the licence in June last year at a ceremony witnessed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in Addis Ababa.

In the run-up to the national launch, STE rolled out large-scale customer pilots of its network in three regions in the country – Dire Dawa City, eastern Harari Region and Oromia Region, starting in Haramaya City.

“Safaricom Ethiopia’s 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services are available in 11 cities from today (Thursday), including the capital and the country’s second-largest city Dire Dawa,” the company said in a statement.

STE expects to switch on its network in 25 cities in Ethiopia by April next year to meet the 25 percent population coverage obligation in its licence.

Kenya's Safaricom sees Ethiopia, a market with more than 100 million people and a relatively lower uptake of mobile and broadband services, as presenting significant growth opportunities.

“For two decades, Safaricom Plc has combined the power of technology and our innovative spirit to solve customer and societal challenges. ...With these lessons and experiences, we look forward to positively impacting the people of Ethiopia with a sustainable and quality mobile network that will be a vital launch pad for nationwide digital telecommunications services to over 118 million Ethiopians," Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said.

President Ruto was received by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The two leaders will hold bilateral talks and witness the launch of the telco.

Liberalisation of Ethiopia's telecom sector is expected to boost job creation and the rise of new micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

From Addis, Dr Ruto is expected to visit Uganda for the 60-year Independence day celebration on Sunday. He is also set to meet President Samia Suluhu thereafter in his regional tour since becoming President on September 13. 

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