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A new market is opening up in Africa: Ethiopia. In July 2019 the government announced the privatisation of 49% of Ethio Telecom, the monopolistic incumbent currently 100% owned by the state. A new regulatory agency has been created for the opening of the Ethiopian market, the Ethiopian Communications Authority.

It will be the ECA that will create a regulatory framework and issue two new mobile operator licenses in March 2020.

The number of mobile operators has reduced recently from 880 to about 800 worldwide – the days of new operator launches are well past, today it is more common to find news about network mergers and even closures, rather than the launch of brand-new operator.

Ethiopia is another potential big growth market in the African continent. It has a population of 109 million, but only 41.9 million mobile subscriptions – with an estimated penetration of 39% (source: Ovum).

Mobile data is still lagging with penetration among users, reaching only 17% of mobile users

The positive development is that ECA will not just look at telecom and postal service (as per old fashion telecom authorities) but also ICT and e-commerce – a forward looking move that position Ethiopia with modern economies.

The ECA undertook a public consultation on the licensing and regulation of the market in October 2019. To keep up to date with the development of one of the few remaining greenfield telecom markets in the world visit the site of ECA at

Dario Betti