Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for an official visit on Tuesday that will include, among other bilateral issues, the formal award of a telecom operating licence to a consortium led by Safaricom.
The official award of the licence will also involve the formal signing of an agreement that will allow Safaricom and partners to start rolling out telecom services, becoming the first foreign entity to provide such services in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described the occasion as “a monumental moment for Ethiopia” and President Kenyatta, who is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) and Joe Mucheru of ICT.
It could see another nut on commercial relations between the two countries fixed.
An international consortium led by Safaricom, and comprising of Vodafone and Vodacom, UK’s CDC Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, won a $850 million licence bid to operate in Ethiopia, defeating MTN of Mauritius who bid $600 million [Sh64.7 billion]. Safaricom has offered to invest $8 billion in Ethiopia over the coming ten years.
The Global Partnership for Ethiopia, as the consortium is known, was declared winner on May 22 and Safaricom paid the licence fee last Wednesday, earning permission to provide services across the country.
There had been 12 prequalified firms in the bid when it was opened last November.
The licence will be valid for 15 years with a possible renewal at a fee. Officials say formal roll-out of services should be expected early in 2022. The services will include voice, text, and data, and mobile payments.
The President was also expected to discuss other bilateral issues, including regional security and cooperation.