Safaricom switched-on commercial network services across 11 cities in Ethiopia including the country’s capital Addis Ababa, a move marketed as a nationwide launch following an earlier trial in Dire Dawa City.

The development was announced in a joint statement from Safaricom alongside partners in the project Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group and financial backers Sumitomo Corporation and British International Investment.

Safaricom Ethiopia activated 2G, 3G and 4G services across the 11 areas and noted it was on track to meet licence obligations of covering a quarter of the country’s population by April 2023. It plans to increase availability to a total of 25 cities by that date.

The newcomer has been building its own network across the country after winning the country’s first private mobile network licence from authorities in 2021. It also has an infrastructure sharing and agreement in place with incumbent Ethio Telecom.

Safaricom Ethiopia’s so-called national launch was hailed by Vodafone CEO Nick Read and his Vodacom counterpart Shameel Joosub, who noted ubiquitous network connectivity “will positively transform the lives of Ethiopians throughout the country, notably by making various Tech for Good solutions and services available in health, education, manufacturing, agriculture and digital finance”.

Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom, added the new venture would draw on lessons from its home market to provide “a sustainable and quality mobile network that will be a vital launch pad for nationwide digital telecommunications services to over 118 million Ethiopians”.