Ethiopia - Country Commercial Guide
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
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Ethiopia’s ICT landscape is rapidly evolving.  The current contribution of the communication sector to GDP is approximately 2%, compared with the 4% average in the East Africa region.  In June 2020 the GOE launched a national digital transformation strategy aspiring to digitize the economy by 2025.  This digital strategy establishes a policy framework to support ecommerce in the country.  The GOE developed a list of approximately 200 eServices or electronic services needed for development in the next several years.  The GOE plans to expand the ICT manufacturing industry, modernize infrastructure, and increase private sector participation.  It also plans to increase the number of mobile, broadband and internet data users, enhance narrowband internet and fixed telephone services, and expand international link capacity.  The GOE has developed an IT Park 18 miles outside of Addis Ababa in Bole Lemi.  The park was developed to attract companies who outsource ICT services, as well as those who manufacture and export IT equipment.

Ethiopia’s wireless penetration stands at 58%, as compared to the Sub-Saharan average of 75%.  Fixed and mobile line telephone density, which shows mobile plus fixed telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants, was 1% and 58%, respectively, in 2021/22.  Prior to 2022, the state-owned Ethio Telecom (ET) maintained a 126-year monopoly on wired and wireless telecommunications and internet services in Ethiopia.  In 2020, the newly established Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) issued an invitation for expressions of interest (EOI) to private telecom operators.  The EOI attracted significant interest from major international telecom and internet service operators including Vodacom, MTN and Orange.  Following a competitive bidding process, ECA granted a nationwide, 15-year, full-service license to Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC, a consortium comprising Safaricom, Vodacom, Sumitomo Corporation and British International Investment (formerly CDC Group).  The consortium paid $850 million to the Ethiopian government as a license fee and vowed to invest $8 billion over the next ten years to develop its communication infrastructural network.  Safaricom began operating in Ethiopia in October 2022.  In June 2023, a tender for a second new telecommunication license was issued by ECA with plans to be awarded by the end of 2023. 

Both Ethio Telecom and Safaricom are investing in expanding their telecommunications systems.  Ethio Telecom finalized the infrastructure build-out under its Expansion Telephone Plan I (ETP I), with China’s ZTE and Huawei Corporation and the Swedish firm Ericsson all taking part.  This expansion is focused on providing telecom services to all of Ethiopia’s 15,000 rural villages, with dedicated lines for agriculture, education, health, and consumer use.  As of May 2023, Safaricom’s services are available in 11 cities, including the country’s two largest cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.  Safaricom plans further expansion to reach 25 Ethiopian cities serving at least 25% of the country’s population.  To meet these goals, Safaricom is building a wholly owned mobile network.   

Beyond issuing new licenses, the telecommunications market will face further disruptions with the planned partial privatization of Ethio Telecom.  The Ministry of Finance launched a tendering process for the proposed sell-off of a 40% stake in state-owned carrier Ethio Telecom to private investors on June 14, 2021.  The bidding process, however, has been temporarily suspended.

Ethio Telecom’s introduction of its Telebirr mobile money product in 2021 initiated a disruption to Ethiopia’s financial landscape, which had remained nearly entirely cash based.  Launched in collaboration with Dashen Bank, Telebirr is an online payment and money transfer application.  Telebirr allows users to deposit cash, send money, receive payment and withdraw cash.  Customers can also use Telebirr to buy airtime and packages, pay with Telebirr for utilities and traffic penalties; buy airtime and pay for merchants.  Since its launch, Telebirr accumulated 34.3 million subscribers and facilitated ETB 679.2 billion ($12.3 billion) in transactions.  Ethiopia’s digital financial services landscape is poised for further disruption with the introduction of Safaricom’s m-Pesa product, which is well-established in the Kenyan market.

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Supply and launch of commercial satellites
  • IT infrastructure development projects
  • Building communication towers and leasing to telecom operators
  • Mobile banking services and outsourcing services
  • International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and related financial standards
  • Website software and technologies
  • Data center development
  • Software development for E-government services
  • Call center development
  • IT business park management
  • Web-based/mobile market information sharing
  • ICT training services
  • Business linkages with universities.


As Ethiopia’s broadband capacity expands, e-Services and mobile services are expected to grow significantly in the coming years.  As the GOE aspires to digitize the economy with plans to decrease cash transactions moving towards using digital payment systems, the time has arrived for Ethiopia to expand e-services and mobile services.


U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (

Ethiopian Information Technology Professional Association