With millions of customers within Africa and beyond, Vodacom Group Limited – a South African telecom giant 65 percent of which owned by the multinational Vodafone – became the latest international telecom company to visit Ethiopia as it attempts to bid for the slice of the massive Ethiopian telecommunications sector.
Its CEO for Africa and the Middle East, Vivek Badrinath, visited Ethiopia this week and met with high government officials and potential partners.
“We have experience from 64 nations, through our 24 operating companies and 42 partners. We are committed to Africa and I run the Africa, Middle East, Africa and Pacific region which has 500 million customers,” he told The Reporter as he toured the capital on Wednesday. “In Africa, we have over 170 million customers. Vodacom is publicly listed in Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and is a large shareholder of Safaricom, the largest telecom operator in Kenya, which is also a transformative brand there with M-Pesa being one of its key and signature products.”
Noting the growing Ethiopian population, he said that there are ample opportunities to make a mark in Ethiopia – one of the continents fastest growing economy, with a growing spending power.
“This is a nation where smartphones and telecom penetration is low. We think there is a desired market for people to use more cellphones and to have access to data and be able to use advanced services. In a nutshell, as a brand, we are a combination of how a telecom company that can bring together people and services, make their lives convenient by way of a financial inclusion vision, for those who do not normally use conventional banks,” he added.
The company has promised to invest in an innovative way to serve the local market and have a system that offers a strong network performance services and high quality network, in a nation that has operated on a government owned, non-competitive telecommunication market for eons.
Among the slew of reforms that was announced by the new Administration Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed (PhD, Nobel Laurent) a year ago was the privatization of some of the long monopolized sectors including telecom and power. Later, the economic team at the office of the prime minster and ministry of finance announced that the reform does not stop at privatizing but would also proceed to liberalizing the sector to foreign and local investors. Recently, reports are indicating that apart from privatizing the state-owned Ethio-telecom, the sector would also be open to independent telecom operators, planning to auction as much as two operators’ license in the upcoming year with the possibility for more opening in the future.