June 7, 2019 / 10:32 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Ethiopia parliament to approve telecoms liberalisation law

(Adds details, background)

By Dawit Endeshaw

ADDIS ABABA, June 7 (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s parliament on Monday will approve a law covering the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, a parliament spokesman said, opening up one of Africa’s last remaining state-controlled telecoms markets.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest leader, pledged economic reforms shortly after he took office in April 2018 aged 41.

“(On Monday) the Parliament will discuss comments on the draft telecom law made by the standing committees for Human Resources and Technology, as well as Trade and Industry. After that MPs will approve the proclamation,” parliament’s communications director Qusquam Mamo said.

The law establishes an independent communications regulator accountable to the prime minister and will be responsible for promoting a competitive market, draft legislation seen by Reuters showed.

International telecommunications firms have shown interest in entering Africa’s second most populous nation and one of the few telecoms sectors on the continent still protected by a state monopoly.

Telecoms executives have told Reuters that they are satisfied with the draft law which was circulated in December and the power it ascribes to the regulator.

There is no indication as to whether the government will sell a minority stake in state monopoly Ethio Telecom or open the sector up to competition through the granting of licences to multiple operators.

Ethiopia has a population of more than 100 million and Ethio Telecom boasts over 60 million mobile subscribers.

Companies that have expressed interest since Abiy’s pledge to transform Ethiopia’s tightly state-controlled economy by opening up strategic sectors include France’s Orange, MTN of South Africa, Britain’s Vodafone Group, the UAE’s Etisalat and Zain of Kuwait. (Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Jason Neely)

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