In an effort to improve the nation’s sole telecom provider, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), the government has floated a bid for international companies to aide ETC’s top management.
The hope is that the winner from the contesting international firms – which is speculated to be made public in two weeks’ time – will enact a complete transformation of ETC.
According to Transport and Communications Minister, Diriba Kuma, the chosen company will introduce new schemes to reform the state-run corporation’s core operations, ranging from service provision to infrastructural maintenance. The firm will also be expected to improve ETC’s already sizeable revenues by moving it into new markets, says Minister Diriba.
ETC is currently embarking on a massive 1.5 billion dollar expansion in all of the services it provides. The planned schemes involve offering various local and international languages choices; providing a 997 information service; and building an optical fibre network with spare capacity in order to create a more efficient Internet connection for the nation - 90 percent of which should be covered by the increasingly popular 3G CDMA phones by the time the project is completed.
“The transformation process the new company will lead will kick off as soon as the ongoing expansion with ZTE is completed,” Minister Diriba, who made an appearance before parliament this week, commented to Capital.
The expansion program ETC is undertaking with ZTE is in its third phase and soon to be completed, according to ETC’s boss Amare Amsalu: “We are putting maximum effort in having the project completed as early as next February or March.”
Amare added that although the large scale of the project may prevent 100 percent completion by March, the project will definitely be sufficiently advanced for the management makeover to commence.
New bill will not mean liberalisation - Diriba
The introduction of telecommunications services in Ethiopia dates back to 1894, only 17 years after the technology itself was invented. However, since then progress during both the imperial regime and the communist era has been slow. Even now, the efficiency of the newly-introduced services, such as mobile and internet services, are not of good quality - a condition many say justifies their call for liberalisation of the telecom sector.
Currently being drafted by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTI), a new telecoms bill is expected to reach parliament in the third quarter of the year, and is speculated to contain articles that will lead to the sector’s liberalisation.
Talking to Capital last Thursday after a parliament session, Minister Diriba rebuffed the speculation, stating that the telecom industry will remain under the state’s control.
The government points to the fact that successful telecom systems throughout the world, including in most European countries, were created under state monopolies, some over the course of several decades.
Diriba, among the new blood PM Meles Zenawi introduced into his cabinet in the surprise reshuffle in October last year, explained that the forthcoming bill is aimed at improving the telecom regulator, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency, by equipping it both with more authority and extra technology.
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