Safaricom connects 21 cities in Ethiopia

Safaricom data centre

The $100 million China-assembled Safaricom data centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. PHOTO | TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | NMG

The Safaricom-led consortium in Ethiopia is now a heartbeat away from hitting its set target of establishing a presence in the country’s 24 cities by next April after it announced an expansion to five more cities this week, bringing the total occupancy to 21 cities.

The additional five are Hawassa, Assela, Jigjiga, Sodo and Dilla with the tech giant saying customers in these cities will be able to purchase SIM cards for 30 birrs (Sh68.95), choose their preferred telephone numbers and access support at Safaricom Ethiopia branded shops.

“We are excited to expand our coverage into Hawassa, Assela, Jigjiga, Sodo and Dilla with more cities set to join the growing Safaricom Ethiopia family. We are also delighted to have expanded our services into more regional states,” said Safaricom Ethiopia CEO Anwar Soussa while announcing the new development.

Safaricom is the major shareholder in the Ethiopian consortium, which includes UK’s Vodafone, South Africa’s Vodacom, Sumitomo Corporation and British International Investment.

The consortium spent over $850 million (Sh102.6 billion) on acquiring the Ethiopian licence and has further pumped $300 million (Sh36.2 billion) as capital expenditure this year.

At the time of the launch of the operation in the market-rich country in October, the telco had projected to switch on the network in at least 24 cities by next April, a target that now seems well on course at only three cities shy.

The aggressive expansion signals the firm’s continued bullish ambition to dominate the Ethiopian market as it has done in Kenya and outdo its closest rival Ethio Telecom, which has a customer base of 58.7 million subscribers.

Ethio Telecom’s customer numbers translate to the biggest single-country subscriber base of any operator on the continent.

Mid last month, Safaricom Ethiopia crossed the one million mark in subscriber numbers just a month after the launch of operations pointing to the telco’s warm reception in the expansive market whose huge population comes second in Africa after Nigeria’s.

The market is estimated to comprise up to 110 million mobile users.

Since setting up shop in Ethiopia, Safaricom has established 561 active 2G/3G/4G sites, and two data centres and is currently operating on 41 shared sites while 931 others are under construction.

The telco has 66 distributor shops, 2,000 SIM card-selling outlets as well as 650 call centre staff who comprise 200 expatriates and 450 local workers including 50 fresh graduates.

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