Saturday, 24 August 2013
Friday, 23 August 2013
ETHIOPIA has Africa’s last big telecoms monopoly. The absence of competition has seen a country of more than 80m lag badly behind the rest of the continent in an industry that has generally burgeoned alongside economic growth. Mobile-phone penetration, which averages 70% of the population elsewhere in Africa, is closer to 25% in Ethiopia. A paltry 2.5% of Ethiopians have access to the internet, compared with 40% in neighbouring Kenya.
A deal in 2010 between France Telecom and Ethio Telecom was seen in some quarters as a step towards privatisation and competition. It drove down calling costs but appears to have faltered with the recent departure of Bruno Duthoit, the French chief executive. Little further improvement is likely now, says Markos Lemma, a local entrepreneur.Ethiopia’s authoritarian leaders are as keen as any on the economic benefits of modern telecoms but fear the political ramifications; pesky dissidents become even more irritating when wired. That explains a $1.6 billion agreement with China’s two leading telecoms-equipment companies to upgrade its network. The deal with Huawei and ZTE will preserve Ethiopia’s state dominance and further put off the opening up of one of Africa’s largest economies.