Safaricom Ethiopia will be Bigger than Safaricom Kenya – Ethiopian Business Review

23 mins read

Anwar Soussa CEO, Safaricom Ethiopia

Anwar Soussa is a senior corporate executive who now serves as the founding CEO of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the Nairobi-based telecommunications and financial multinational, Safaricom.

Ethiopia announced the opening of the telecom sector in 2018. This materialized with the establishment of the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) in the same year and subsequent licensing of the Global Partnership for Ethiopia (GPE) in 2021, which has now become Safaricom Ethiopia. This ends the 128 years of monopoly in Africa’s second-most populous country.

The company he leads is a consortium of multinational operators in which Kenya’s Safaricom is the largest with a 55.7Pct share, followed by Japan’s century-old Sumitomo Corporation with 27.2Pct, the CDC Group—currently named British International Investment—owning 10.9Pct, and Vodacom—the South African telecom company—retaining a 6.2Pct stake. GPE paid a USD850 million licensing fee.

Anwar holds an MSc in Business Administration earned from Concordia University, in Montreal. He has spent a significant portion of his career in senior management positions of telecommunications firms on the African continent, alongside stints in Cyprus and Papua New Guinea. Hired as Managing Director of Vodacom DRC and Chairperson of Vodacash in 2017, he is credited with turning the unit into the largest Vodacom operation outside of South Africa—exceeding USD500 million in gross revenue for the first time in 2020.

Prior to joining Vodacom, he served as CEO of Airtel Uganda and Chad, subsidiaries of the Indian multinational telecom operator based in New Delhi. He has also occupied various other senior leadership roles at MTN, a South African multinational operating in many African and Asian countries, as well as Digicel, a Jamaica-based mobile phone network and home entertainment provider operating in 33 markets.

Anwar’s cross-functional experience and special focus on emerging markets bode well for the company, Ethiopia’s telecom sector, and national development at large as such is the power of telecommunications.

In this interview, he conversed with EBR’s Addisu Deresse about Safaricom’s entrance into Ethiopia’s telecom sphere, the challenges of doing business in the country, and the expected shifting dynamics within the economy following the commencement of services by his company.

What have you been up to as Safaricom Ethiopia since the license was assigned?
Since receiving the license at the end of June 2021, we have been trying to unlock the country in a way in which we could understand it. It’s not a straightforward process here in Ethiopia. I am not talking about government-related procedures, but rather, the investment and size of the telecommunications company. It’s also customs, land acquisition, and how to interconnect your towers. There are additional complexities that were not foreseen when you enter the country—more complicated than what you think. So, we’ve been trying to understand how things work. We have also been busy hiring people and ordering massive amounts of equipment. Further, we’ve found our building where we can set up our office