Ethiopia - Country Commercial Guide
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Last published date: 2022-07-21

This is a best prospect industry sector for Ethiopia, which includes a market overview and trade data. 


The state-owned Ethio Telecom (ET), formerly known as the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation, has maintained a monopoly on wired and wireless telecommunications and internet services for 126 years. Ethio Telecom will be the first major state-wned Enterprise (SOE) to be partially privatized and face international competition. Ethiopia is moving forward with allowing multiple telecom operators. Following passage by Ethiopia’s parliament of a new communication service proclamation, a new regulatory agency, Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA), was established in 2019 with a mandate to license and regulate communication operators in the country.  

ECA issued an invitation for expressions of interest (EOI) to private telecom operators in May 2020. The EOI attracted significant interest from major international telecom and internet service operators including Vodacom, MTN and Orange, with these some mobile network operators opening offices in Addis Ababa.  Following a competitive bid process, ECA granted a nationwide full-service Unified Telecommunications Service License to the Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC effective from 9 July 2021, valid for a term of fifteen (15) years from the effective date, and renewable for additional terms of fifteen (15) years subject to fulfillment of all license obligations. Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC is formed as a local Telecommunication Operating Company by its parent company, Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a consortium comprising Safaricom (55.7% stake), Vodacom (6.2%), Sumitomo Corporation (27.2) and CDC Group (10.9).  The consortium paid $850 million to the Ethiopian government as a license fee and vowed to invest 8 billion dollars over the next ten years to develop its communication infrastructural network. Based on the agreement Safaricom was to launch services nine months after its license award, but that launch date has been pushed back.  Global and local conditions have been considered as factors for the delay. 

On April 13, 2022, Ethio Telecom and Safaricom expressed that they had successfully concluded negotiation with the regulator, ECA, on a 10-year infrastructure sharing and interconnections agreement.  Severe disagreements had earlier arisen between the two companies regarding the price and currency of payment and under this agreement.  Ultimately, payment will be made in both currencies, with varying ratios across the infrastructure type. 

In addition to that, 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. This tender is part of the government’s broader plan to open up the country’s economy.  Interested local and international investors submitted an expressions of interest (EOI), the first of a series of stages that will lead to picking of a successful bidder. The bidding process however has been paused and postponed for a later period. 

In June 2020 the GOE launched a national digital transformation strategy aspiring to digitize the economy by 2025. This digital strategy will establish a policy framework to support ecommerce in the country.  

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. Ethiopia’s wireless penetration stands at 56.2%, 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 54.%, respectively, in 2020/21. Most services, such as mobile, fixed, IP, VolP, and VSAT, were government-owned and/or operated by Ethio Telecom until Safaricom joined the market  

The GOE has developed a list of approximately 200 eServices or electronic services needed for development in the next several years. The GOE plans to expand the information and communication technology (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 infrastructure for an “IT Park” to attract ICT service companies, particularly those involved in outsourcing. This IT Park, located approximately 29 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa in Bole Lemi, is officially open. The GOE also has plans to manufacture and export IT equipment from this park. 

Ethio Telecom continues to invest in expanding and upgrading the country’s telecommunication system. According to the 2021 National Bank of Ethiopia annual report, by the end of 2020/21, there were 54.3 million mobile phone users (a 21.9 % annual increase), nearly 1 million fixed lines (a 62 % decrease), and 24.5 million Internet service subscribers (a 4.3% rise) in a country of over 100 million people. 

Ethio Telecom has 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.  

Ethio Telecom has significantly reduced the rates for a range of internet and telecom services on two occasions in 2018 and 2020. The revised mobile internet service scheme and tariff on offer is set to attract new subscribers, incentivize current users, and facilitate modernization. 

Ethio telecom, a publicly owned telecom and internet services providing company, launched the first ever mobile money transfer platform called telebirr. 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. In less than one year, telebirr became very popular and has over 17 million subscriber. 


Unit: in millions of birr 










Total Market Size 





Total Local Production 





Exchange Rate: 1 USD* 

28.20 birr 

33.00 birr 

48.00 birr 

58.00 birr 

Data for 2019 and 2020 /21 are taken from NBE report while the rest are estimates. 

* Exchange rate for 2019 and 2020 are taken from NBE Mid-Market Rates.  


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 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 - eitpa Resources and Information.