The French telecommunications giant Orange is considering a bid for a minority stake in the Ethiopian telecom market, Bloomberg reported, since Ethiopia is inviting bidders in a move to liberalize the state-hold monopoly of the telecom industry for the over-110-million-people market.
Ramon Fernandez, Orange's Deputy CEO, said the carrier is "open" to rival Ethio Telecom by taking part in an auction for a new privately held mobile-phone license. Both options are likely to be made available by next year.
The Ethiopian government is working with advisers on how to open the country’s telecommunications market to outside investors, Fernandez said. The prospect has attracted vocal interest from the biggest wireless carriers operating in Africa, including Safaricom, MTN Group Ltd., Vodacom Group Ltd., and Orange.
Alioune Ndiaye, Orange’s Africa CEO, has traveled to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa last week to meet government officials and other interested bidders, the Deputy CEO said. The investment prospect is one of the last major economies to liberalize the telecoms industry, he said. “We’ll see what’s the best option for us.”
“It’s a major reform for any government and it’s going to be a long process,” Fernandez said, adding that the privatization could take place this year or next. “We are ready. We are just waiting for the next steps to be carried out.”