Ethiopia ‘to build new national fibre network’, says innovation minister

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ETHIOPIA is planning to build a national fibre network to connect public services and a national data centre.

Getahun Mekuria, the country’s minister of innovation and technology, announced the move last week during a workshop held in the capital, Addis Ababa, on national investment in telecoms infrastructure.

The new network will replace 12-year-old network, WoredaNet, which is out of date, said Mekuria, a former electrical engineer who worked at Siemens.

Mekuria is a member of the new government that came into power in Ethiopia in April 2018 with a mandate to make peace with neighbouring countries, begin economic reforms and liberalise the media.

The reforms are led by Abiy Ahmed  who became prime minister at the same time. Ahmed told the World Economic Forum in Davos last week that telecoms is one of the key areas where he is seeking foreign inward investment – along with energy, logistics, air and rail transport, and industrial parks.

‘We want to make the private sector an integral part of our economy,’ said Ahmed in Davos. ‘We are unleashing the potential of the private sector.’

He noted that at 9 percent a year Ethiopia has ‘one of the fastest growing economies in the world”, but he warned that “our challenges remain formidable.’

Ethiopia has a population of 100 million, of whom 60 million are under 24, he told the conference. “It is a time of great opportunity for Ethiopia.”

Shortly after coming to power in 2018, Ahmed said he  would look to offload around a 30-40 percent stake in the monopoly provider, Ethio Telecom, as well as splitting the company in two, with stakes set to be made available to global investors. He appointed a woman IT entrepreneur, Frehiwot Tamiru, as CEO of  Ethio Telecom.

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