By Giulia Paravicini
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday urged Ethiopia to open up its telecommunications sector to private mobile money investors, a move that would complement a process already underway to reform the sector and attract foreign investment .
Ethiopia is opening up its telecommunications sector, previously monopolized by state-owned company Ethio Telecom, and authorities last month granted the first private operator license.
The license was awarded to a consortium led by Safaricom of Kenya, Vodafone and Sumitomo 8053.T of Japan.
Currently, only Ethio Telecom is authorized to offer mobile financial services, while the law prohibits foreign operators from participating. Mobile money is a term for banking transactions done using a phone or other mobile device.
“I hope your government will consider opening up the mobile money opportunity in Ethiopia in the near future,” Kenyatta, who is visiting Ethiopia, said at a ceremony in the capital Addis Ababa where the consortium was officially awarded. its operating license.
“This decision will be particularly timely, as it will provide millions of Ethiopians with opportunities for financial inclusion.”
Mobile money services, which were launched in Kenya over a decade ago, have become a lucrative segment of telecommunications services in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ethiopia hopes that the opening of one of the world’s last large closed telecommunications markets will create millions of online job opportunities.
The Safaricom consortium plans to invest up to $ 8.5 billion in the country’s infrastructure, among others.
As part of the opening up of the sector, Ethiopia is also planning to sell 40% of the capital of Ethiopia Telecom to private investors and 5% to Ethiopians. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on the same occasion that his government was in the final stages of launching the tender process.
(Written by Elias Biryabarema, edited by Angus MacSwan)