Ethiopia received the bids for nationwide telecom service licenses from two giant telecom operators: MTN Group Ltd. and a consortium of Safaricom (Kenya), Vodafone Group (UK), Vodacom Group (South Africa), CDC Group (UK), and Sumitomo Corporation (Japan), said Brook Taye, an adviser in the Finance Ministry.

This announcement is the latest update regarding the country’s effort to liberalize its economy.

“We always wanted quality providers and this is what we have received,” Taye commented. “These are two African giants – the Safaricom-led consortium and MTN – either one or two of the operators will get a license in Ethiopia.”

He added that Ethiopia will, as a first step, review the technical offer and then open the financial bids. Moreover, according to Taye, it should not take more than a week for the winners of the licenses to be announced.

MTN, for its part, said that its participation is aligned with their strategy, Ambition 2025, focusing on capturing growth from digital acceleration across the continent. It has been made in partnership with Silk Road Fund from China. Other partners will be disclosed depending on bid outcome.

“Ethiopia provides the largest telecommunication and digital services growth opportunity in Africa over the medium term and fits into our pan-Africa focus and platform strategy. We are being guided by our capital allocation framework in our assessment of this opportunity,” commented MTN Group President and CEO Ralph Mupita, in confirming the MTN and Silk Road Fund equity partnership bid.

The government is looking to award two full-service telecommunication licenses as part of its plan to attract more foreign investment to its economy.

The members of the consortium may invest through special purpose investment vehicles, according to the statement.

“It seems like companies like Orange and Etisalat are more interested in buying a stake in Ethio Telecoms,” said Taye.

The bid winners will secure full operating licenses, but they will not be allowed to operate mobile phone-based financial services, as they are required to set up their own network infrastructure, such as cellphone towers, government officials mentioned previously last year.

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