Adoption of Kenyan, Nigerian and Tanzanian Best Practices in Communication Services Provision to Liberalize Telecommunication Sector in Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Globally, the telecommunication sector is under a regular reform process in the form of privatization and liberalization of the market as well as establishing an independent regulatory authority to foster competition and protect the interests of customers from unjust practices of operators. As part of the globe, the policy and regulatory framework of the sector in many African countries also encouraging the involvement of private operators within the sector provided that they fulfill the necessary requirements to provide the service to people. For example, the mobile, fixed-line and internet segments in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania had multiple operators that provide the services in a competitive way. The respective regulatory authority are easing the market entry through introducing convergence licensing framework in which operators can provide any types of services using any kind of technology if they can do so. However, privatization, liberalization and other elements of telecommunication reform has not taken place in Ethiopian telecommunication sector even if private sectors are participating in resale services such as cyber café, tele-cente, cable work, etc. The country’s policy and regulatory framework restricts the privatization of the incumbent and the involvement of private operators to provide mobile, fixed-line, internet and other telecommunication services. Instead, it allows the national monopoly of the sector and a single government-owned operator (Ethio-telecom) solely provides all these services to more than 80 million Ethiopian population. The volatile of the region, the lion share of the sector for financing other projects as well as unwillingness of private sectors to expand universal services to costly areas are the major reasons for over-handed of the sector by the government. The general objective of this study, therefore, was to assess the experiences and best practices of Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania in telecommunication service provision with the intention that Ethiopia can derive lessons to introduce reform elements in its telecommunication sector. The researcher employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The data gathered mainly from secondary sources and interview of the senior officials in Ethio-telecom and MoCIT. The study found that Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania had improved the accessibility and affordability of telecommunication services as a result of continuous reform of the sector. For example, the Kenyan mobile penetration reached 77.3 % in 2013. The regulatory environment protects the customers’ interests since regulators are fully autonomous. In contrast, the monopoly market structure in Ethiopian telecommunication sector had negatively affected the penetration of services particularly, in mobile and internet services. The mobile penetration, for example in 2012, was as low as 20.42%. Moreover, various regulatory functions such as customer protection (e.g. through quality service monitoring as well as compliant management and resolution) are not properly implemented due to absence of independent regulatory authority for the sector and limited capacity of the incumbent. In addition, the telecommunication voice tariffs had not downwardly revised in recent years due to absence of competition within the market. Based on these findings, the researcher has recommended (if government is willing) that, as part of the globe, the Ethiopian government and/or policy makers should consider the reality of the world and gradually introduce privatization and competition to the sector with establishment of an independent regulatory authority. The government should have separate entities for regulation and policy-making functions. Moreover, the regulatory environment should protect the customers’ interest through implementing customers’ charter and service level agreement to specified quality standards so that the incumbent is accountable when it failed to achieve



Telecommunication sector in ethiopia