East Africa

Safaricom seeks office in Ethiopia amid civil strife


Summary

  • Safaricom last month evacuated some of its employees from Ethiopia because of armed conflict and civil unrest.
  • The war is threatening the stability of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country seen by Kenyan major companies, including Safaricom, as a promising frontier for investment.
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By BRIAN NGUGI


Safaricom plans to lease and occupy an office building by the start of next year in Addis Ababa as a base for its Ethiopia operations, an indication the telco remains bullish on its expansion plans despite the ongoing conflict that has threatened to disrupt its operations in the country.

Safaricom said in tender documents that it wants to sublet a big block of office space in Addis Ababa’s central business district for three years.

“We are looking for suitable office space in the central of Addis Ababa, to house some of our operations….(It must) be ready for occupation by January 1, 2022 at the latest,” said Safaricom.

It said the preferred office has to be within 5km of Addis Ababa city centre and be in an area with good security.

“(It must be) well served by major roads and easily accessible from Bole International Airport,” it added.

Safaricom last month evacuated some of its employees from Ethiopia because of armed conflict and civil unrest as a raging conflict between the government of Ethiopia and forces in its northern Tigray region threw the country into turmoil and threatened to disrupt the firm’s operations in the populous nation.

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The Safaricom consortium, which also includes British development finance agency CDC Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, won the licence with a bid of $850 million and aims to start operations in Ethiopia next year.

It plans to launch commercial operations by mid-next year.

The war is threatening the stability of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country seen by Kenyan major companies, including Safaricom, as a promising frontier for investment.

The conflict has kept investors on edge, even as it triggered a hunger crisis, leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian aid.

The Ethiopian government recently said its forces have recaptured the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, their latest territorial gains in the battle against fighters from the northern Tigray region.

Fears of a Tigrayan march on Addis Ababa had prompted countries such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy’s government says their rivals’ gains are overstated and the city is secure.

The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to United Nations estimates.

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