Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly approved plans for the country’s regulators to finalise its market liberalisation process, with the identity of the market’s new entrants to be known in the coming days.

Ecofin reported Ahmed gave the green light to open up the monopoly market at a meeting with regulator Ethiopia Communications Authority, the Ministry of Finance, state-owned Ethio Telecom and members of the Privatisation Advisory Council.

According to Ecofin, new entrants in the market will be allocated frequencies of 10MHz and 20MHz in the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum band, while the incumbent Ethio Telecom will receive 15MHz and 35MHz. In the 2100MHz and 2600MHz bands, all operators will receive 20MHz.

Privatisation of Ethiopia’s telecoms market has been in the works since 2018, but the process has been delayed by issues related to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In September this year, Ethiopian News Agency reported plans to start a process to sell a 40 per cent stake in Ethio Telecom and issue two new licences, which was originally expected to conclude in early 2021.

The licences have attracted interest from a number of international operators, including MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Etisalat and a consortium comprising Vodafone Group and its Africa-focused affiliates.

The new entrants will be expected to extend network coverage to 25 per cent of the country within 12 months, rising to 40 per cent a year after.

Ethio Telecom has 45 million connections, with 32 per cent of the country’s population subscribing to the network.