Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei are expected to sign contracts with the Ethiopian government in the coming weeks, AllAfrica reports. Citing Ethiopian Communication and Information Technology Minister Debretsion Gebremichael, the report claims that the two Chinese companies will each ink two-year contracts as part of the Ethiopian government’s project aimed at boosting the number of mobile phone users in the country. It remains unclear what work each of the vendors will be contracted for, with Dr Gebremichael simply noting: ‘Both companies will be engaged…and will have a share in the market.’ It has, however, been confirmed that ZTE and Huawei will provide the funding for whatever part they play in the project, with the minister adding: ‘We are not investing; we are inviting companies to come with their finance…That is why we are waiting for the negotiation.’
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in June 2011 state-owned Ethio Telecom – which is presently being managed by France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) – launched a tender for the turnkey expansion of its network, based on a vendor financing scheme, with a view to meeting coverage expansion and subscriber uptake targets set by the government as part of its September 2010 Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). Ethio Telecom is understood to be aiming to increase the number of mobile subscribers to 64.4 million by the end of the 2014/2015 fiscal year, while by that date mobile network coverage is planned to have increased to 90%, up from the approximate 55% reported at mid-2012. Long-term partner ZTE was reported to be among those competing for the tender, while another Chinese vendor, Huawei, was also said to be in the running, with a third company, Israel’s ECI, rounding out the interested parties. By the end of 2011 all three were understood to have handed in their respective technical and commercial proposals to Ethio Telecom. March 2012 saw claims that Huawei could grab a significant share of the contracts up for grabs.