Ethiopia’s finance ministry confirmed two final bids for new operating licences, with MTN Group and a consortium including Vodafone Group, Vodacom and Safaricom in the running to enter the market.

The country’s delayed application process ended today (26 April) with the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance wasting no time in announcing final bids had been received from MTN, and a consortium made-up of Vodafone’s affiliates and partners CDC Group and Sumitomo Corporation.

In a brief statement released on social media, the ministry said it was “delighted to have received the bids for the nationwide telecom service licences from two giant telecom operators”.

Yesterday, the country’s communications regulator indicated licence awards would be announced after the completion of technical and financial evaluations of documents submitted to authorities.

The delayed process had originally been contested by 12 parties, which submitted initial expressions of interest. In addition to the two announced final bidders, these included Orange, Etisalat and Saudi Telecom Company.

Ethiopia kicked-off the final licensing process in November 2020 and subsequently shifted the deadline twice citing issues around Covid-19 (coronavirus).

Opening of the country’s communications market has been in the works for more than two years, with authorities repeatedly outlining their intent to attract international operator groups to compete with incumbent Ethio Telecom.

GSMA Intelligence estimated the country had 50.1 million mobile connections in Q1. As of its latest figures (for 2019), the United Nations placed the country’s population at around 112 million.