Huawei Eyes Ethiopia Growth as Telecoms Industry Opens Up

ADDIS ABEBA – Huawei Technologies Corp. is positioning itself to get more business in Ethiopia, as the East African economy opens up its telecommunications sector, Bloomberg has reported on Thursday.

“Ethiopia is rising and becoming much more important for the future,” Loise Tamalgo, Huawei’s Vice-President for Southern-Sahara Africa, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The company is likely to move a regional office covering about five countries from the Democratic Republic Congo to Ethiopia, where it currently only has a country office, he said.

“Our strategy is very simple,” Tamalgo said. The company plans to leverage its position as the main vendor of the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom to bid for opportunities in the country, he said.

Liberalization of the telecom industry is at the forefront of what Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in 2018 would be a wide-ranging privatization program.

The plan was intended to bring in much needed foreign exchange and boost the economy, while improving connectivity across the Horn of Africa nation.

The country plans to issue two new telecom licenses next year and sell a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom.

Vodacom Group, a subsidiary of U.K.’s Vodafone Group, is among carriers planning to bid for licenses, though an ongoing military conflict is giving the carrier cause for concern.

MTN Group, Africa’s largest career by subscribers, and Paris-based Orange SA have also expressed interest in entering Africa’s second-most populous country, with more than 100 million people.

Last week, the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. approved a loan of as much as $500 million to a Vodafone-led consortium seeking to start an Ethiopian mobile-phone network operator. The facility will finance the design, development and operation of a new private mobile network provider and the acquisition of a license.