Company applauds gov’t for easing import processes
Safaricom Ethiopia is about to invest USD 700 million to import equipment until the end of the company’s financial year, which just begun last month.
This is in addition to the USD 300 million worth of equipment’s it has imported so far, which includes the USD 100 million data center it unveiled in February of this year.
The company’s investment in Ethiopia has now surpassed USD one billion together with the license fee it paid.
According to Matthew Harrison, chief external affairs and regulatory officer at Safaricom Ethiopia, the equipment are to be used for the whole telecom network including towers, data centers and other equipment to enable the company provide its products and services.
“At the moment, we are focusing on the first year, and then we will keep going with the next year’s investment,” said Harrison.
In a bid to become the first private telecommunications company and end Ethio telecom’s 126 year monopoly, a Safaricom led consortium including the Vodacom and Vodafone Group, Sumitomo Corporation and CDC Group, won the bid securing a 15 year license for a whopping USD 850 million. The company also pledged to invest USD 8.5 billion in capital expenditure and operational costs in a decade.
The offer from another company, MTN, was just USD 600 million.
The company also found the process to import the equipment’s as fast, applauding the quick cooperation from the government’s side such as the Customs Commission, Ethiopian Investment Commission, Ethiopian Communications Authority, and the National Bank of Ethiopia.
According to Harrison, it would have taken up to 60 days to import the equipment but only took the company 16 days.
“This is the most equipment imported in a short period of time for our sector,” Harrison said, adding, “The process to import was very good, that we have learned a lot together with the government.”
However, officials at the Ethiopian Customs Commission claim to have no special privileges in place for specific organizations.
“If the procedures are finalized in good time and requirements are all met, anyone can process their imports in a few days,” said Azezew Chanie, deputy commissioner for operations with the Commission.
Azezew explained the Commission is now serving its clients without delays, having made structural changes, employment of enough number of professionals, and mainly digitizing its major services.
“As per my knowledge, there is an understanding at a governmental level that services given to Safaricom should be fast,” Azezew said, adding “But there was actually no special intervention at the Commission except that the company completed its responsibilities very fast.”
Safaricom Ethiopia was supposed to launch commercial services nine months after being awarded the license in May of last year. The company’s officials say they will launch their service “soon.”