Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa Tuesday on an official visit that will include, among other bilateral issues, the formal award of a telecom operating licence to a consortium led by Safaricom.
The award of the licence will also involve the formal signing of an agreement to allow Safaricom and its partners to start rolling out telecoms 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 Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs) and Joe Mucheru of ICT.
This could see another nut on commercial relations between the two countries fixed.
An international consortium led by Safaricom, comprising Vodafone and Vodacom, UK's CDC Group and Japan's Sumitomo Corporation, won a $850 million licence to operate in Ethiopia, edging out MTN of Mauritius, who bid $600 million. Safaricom has offered to invest $8 billion in Ethiopia in 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, earning the 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 the formal roll-out of services should be expected early in 2022. The services will include voice, text, data, and mobile payments.
President Kenyatta is also expected to discuss other bilateral issues, including regional security and cooperation.