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Analysis: Excitement, expectation drives Safaricom Ethiopia to nearly a million subscribers

Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom CEO, delivering speech at the formal launching ceremony of Safaricom Ethiopia on 06 October 2022. Photo: Safaricom Ethiopia

By Assefa Molla

Addis Abeba – Since switching on its network and services in Addis Abeba on 07 October, after weeks of network trials in 10 cities across Ethiopia, Safaricom’s subscribers have reached nearly a million.

The telco told The Reporter last week that its subscribers have reached 933,000 and that it expects the number to surpass a million by this week.

Expanding its services into 17 cities across the country, the telecom company according to The Star, generated 98.3 million Kenyan Shilling (806,000 USD) in revenue in the first month of operations in Ethiopia.

Out of the total revenue, the company earned 9.1 million Kenyan Shilling (74,000 USD) from its services, the rest being from sale of handsets.

Safaricom Ethiopia, the first privately owned telco company in the country is offering customers with 4G data, voice, and SMS services between its “07” network and Ethio Telecom lines alongside international calls and mobile phones for sale.

Ethiopians have been introduced to telecommunications through what has now become Ethio Telecom, a state owned telecom company, which evolved from “Central Administration of Telephone and Telegraph System of Ethiopia” established in 1894.

For over a century, Ethio Telecom has been the sole telecom provider in the country, often receiving complaints of expensive costs and frequent service interruptions coupled with slow internet penetration. Until 2010 Ethiopia’s internet penetration rate remained under 1% according to the World Bank.

Expectation of better services in terms of quality and pricing as well as the excitement of having an alternative telecom provider is driving people to Safaricom.

CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia Anwar Soussa told The Reporter that “people are excited” and about 20,000 people daily subscribing to the telco’s network.

Safaricom Ethiopia subscribers who spoke to Addis Standard say they were eagerly waiting for the launch of the “07” network, since the news of opening up of the telecom sector was first announced in 2019.

“I choose Safaricom for its fast internet and for the fact that it works outside of Ethiopia as an international company. On top of that, I hope that the company would serve me with due respect and fulfil my needs,” Safaricom’s mobile subscriber, Addis Derbew said.

Addis said he bought the Safaricom SIM-card hoping that the telecom company would come up with “special services and incentives”.

Another subscriber Yosef Workeleul told Addis Standard that despite his expectations, he found Safaricom’s data costs to be expensive.

“The price is unreasonable, even for the packages it has provided. For instance, the monthly 100GB data package from Safaricom costs 1000 Ethiopian Birr (2290 Kenyan Shilling), which is almost equal to the cost of monthly unlimited data from Ethio-telecom,” Yosef said.

“I had expectations of cheaper services, but regrettably, I’m not happy with what I got,” Yosef added.

Addis on his part said that “If it [Safaricom] couldn’t do things better than Ethio-Telecom, I think it wouldn’t be easy for the company to survive”.

Both subscribers expressed their hope that the telecom company would introduce new services with better quality and relatively cheaper price as it settles in the market.

The firm will be launching it’s renowned M-Pesa mobile money services, which according to Safaricom’s CEO Peter Ndegwa, “are expected to boost commercial efforts, with a greater focus on driving financial inclusion and digital acceleration for the people”.

Safaricom Ethiopia is consortium named the Global Partnership for Ethiopia led by Safaricom Plc, and includes Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group, Sumitomo Corporation and British International Investment.

It was declared as the winner of one the two licenses Ethiopia opted to give to private telecommunication operators, in May 2021 after offering $850 million and promised to invest $8.5 million over 10 years. AS

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