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Airtel won’t bid for Ethiopia licence, but China’s Sharing Mobile will

Capacity | Indian operator Airtel, which has 110 million customers in Africa, will not bid for one of the upcoming Ethiopian licences, China’s Sharing Mobile will do so.

The Xinhua News Agency, the official state-run press agency of the People’s Republic of China, said this morning that Sharing Mobile “is joining the bid for the telecom licence in Ethiopia”.

The company, based in Beijing, is little known outside China, but has been actively exploring overseas markets, said Xinhua. It has had an 80% share in a Nigerian operator, GiCell, since 2016 and has made overtures in South America.

Xinhua said: “With flexible decision-making mechanism and deep accumulation in technological innovation and platform building, Sharing Mobile is expected to be a strong competitor in this transaction, bringing more localised communication products to Ethiopia and introducing the most advanced communication technology and international operation management system to enhance the economic competitiveness of Ethiopia’s communication industry.”

Airtel Africa’s CEO said on Friday that the company will not bid for Ethiopia. Raghunath Mandava (pictured) told the agency that the company sees more room to grow in the 14 countries it has already invested in, including in its biggest market in Nigeria.

He said “our entire current focus” is on Nigeria, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Kenya, so “we are not looking at bidding for Ethiopia at this stage”.

The Ethiopia Communications Authority has set a deadline of 5 March for applications for the two new licences.

Sharing Mobile, also called Sharing Internet Mobile Communications, was established in March 2006. It operates a range of technologies, according to details from the GSMA, the industry trade association.

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