The country is among the least-connected in Africa, with only about 12% of people online, the International Telecommunications Union reported in 2015.
The Brookings Institution think tank released a report last October saying the country only lost around $8.5m when internet access was cut off for weeks during last year’s unrest.
“People invest a lot of money in China, where the internet is already very difficult,” John Ashbourne, Africa economist a London-based Capital Economics told AFP. “These are not insurmountable problems, but they’re frustrations.”
The internet cafe where Abiy Tesfaye works in Addis Ababa’s busy Piazza neighbourhood runs off mobile data and only one customer was using one of his 14 computers.
The business has been suffering for years as more and more people browse the internet with smartphones, Abiy said, and the internet shutdown was the latest blow.
“We lose money, we don’t have the customers. It’s a shame,” he said.
Around the corner, Dereje Alemayehu Nida’s cafe was doing a brisk business in people filling out visa applications and surfing Facebook, but that’s only because his broadband internet access came back online over the weekend after days without connectivity.
“It would have been better if they used another means to control the exams rather than shut down the internet,” Dereje said.