Ethiopia: Orange Expresses Diminished Interest In Ethio Telecom

Orange’s CEO has expressed caution regarding Ethiopia’s ability to swiftly privatise its telecom sector.

While confirming his great interest in the Ethiopian market through a potential equity investment in the country’s Ethio Telecom, Stéphane Richard, the CEO of the French operator Orange, found the prospect of securing one of the two new licences – to be granted in March – more appealing than that of acquiring a minority stake in the country’s sole operator.

At Orange’s recent 2025 strategy presentation Richard said that he is wary of those nudging Orange towards Ethio Telecom.

Orange has operations in over 18 countries on the African continent through its Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA) division.

According to the executive, Ethiopia’s market characteristics and political situation in addition to Ethio Telecom’s own specificities, add an extra layer of complexity to the process because Ethio Telecom is a monopolistic operator in a previously communist country.
These factors have raised concerns as Orange doesn’t think that the telco is up there with the world’s leading players.

Richard said that Orange is aware of the country’s plans to privatise the operator, but it doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of the terms and conditions of that privatisation.
He added that Orange had opened an office in Addis Ababa to facilitate communication around the possibilities.

With close to 100 million residents, a notably low mobile phone penetration rate and a whole network to be built from the ground up, Richard still sees Ethiopia as an “exciting” prospect but said that Orange would be moving with caution in this regard.

By 2025, Ethiopia expects to generate 18 million new mobile subscribers, according to a recent report released by the telecom trade body GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications).

Stephane Richard indicated that Ethiopia’s plans could possibly give Orange a reason to consider rolling out an IPO of its OMEA division.
However, he said that a “clear” strategic growth project for Africa would need to be defined before such a launch.

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