Huawei targets Ethiopia as country opens up telecom industry

24 December 2020

Huawei is jockeying for position to secure more business in Ethiopia, as the Horn of Africa nation opens up its telecom sector to foreign investment.

Speaking in an interview in Côte d'Ivoire’s commercial capital capital Abidjan, Loise Tamalgo, Huawei’s head of public relations for 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, said “Ethiopia is rising and becoming much more important for the future”. The Chinese giant is likely to move a regional office covering about five nations from the Democratic Republic Congo to Ethiopia, where it currently only has a country office, he added. “Our strategy is very simple,” Tamalgo said.

Huawei plans to leverage its position as the main vendor of the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom to bid for opportunities in the country. Liberalisation of the telecom industry is at the forefront of what Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed said in 2018 would be a wide-ranging privatisation program. The plan was intended to bring in much needed foreign exchange and boost the economy, while improving connectivity across the Horn of Africa nation.

The country is seeking to double its mobile towers to about 14,000, which would require an investment of up to US$1.1bn and build out its fibre-optic network from less than 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles) currently, according to the Ethiopian Communications Authority. It also plans to sell a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom and issue two new telecom licenses in 2021.