The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) approved Airtel Kenya’s acquisition of rival operator Telkom Kenya, a move which would step up competition against market leader Safaricom.

CAK director general Wang’ombe Kariuki outlined conditions for the acquisition in The Kenya Gazette, the government’s official publication, stating Airtel Kenya cannot sell the merged entity for the next five years and must fulfil all existing contracts with government entities.

In a move to safeguard jobs, CAK demanded 349 of Telkom Kenya’s 674 employees be retained after the acquisition. Two-thirds must be employed for a minimum of two years, with the rest to be absorbed by network partners. Telkom Kenya stated in August it would make 575 of its staff redundant as a result of the acquisition.

One last hurdle for the merger is an investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which already delayed the process.

Prior to the probe, a committee in Kenya’s National Assembly said the deal had “all the hallmarks of a scandal” noting it enabled private individuals to acquire a public company “through the backdoor for a song”.

The merger of the second- and third-largest operators in Kenya was announced in February: the new company would be called Airtel-Telkom.