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NewsSecurity concerns, restrictions hindering Safaricom Ethiopia’s nascent operations: CEO

Security concerns, restrictions hindering Safaricom Ethiopia’s nascent operations: CEO

Conflict and unrest continue to pose operational hurdles for Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, disclosed recently appointed CEO Wim Vanhelleputte during an annual performance brief in Nairobi on May 9, 2024.

“Our operations in conflict areas [in Ethiopia] remain subject to restrictions,” said Vanhelleputte. “For instance, we have 500 towers in the Amhara region, where there are data restrictions due to the state of emergency.”

The figure accounts for nearly a fifth of the telecom towers the firm operates in Ethiopia.

“We hope this will improve soon,” said Vanhelleputte, who was brought in to replace founding CEO Anwar Soussa last year. 

A company report released this week indicates that transportation restrictions in the Oromia region have also posed some challenges. It notes a “stable security situation” in Tigray.

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The CEO had previously told The Reporter the firm is looking to invest USD 1.5 billion to triple its tower network and extend its coverage over the coming three years. Its current network covers 38 percent of the Ethiopian population, according to the Safaricom financial report.

Vanhelleputte indicated that security concerns, limited access to smartphones, and regulatory shortcomings continue to pose obstacles to Safaricom’s ambitions as Ethiopia’s first private telecoms operator. 

The company managed revenues of close to 2.53 billion birr (5.76 billion Kenyan shillings) in its first full year of operation since launch, according to the report. Mobile data revenues from Safaricom Ethiopia’s 4.4 million users account for close to 75 percent of the total. 

Its M-PESA mobile money network has garnered more than four and a half million customers and close to 26,000 agents in the new market, according to the report.

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