Months after Safaricom won the bid to start operating in Ethiopia, a conflict between Tigrayan rebels and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has now forced East Africa’s biggest telco to flee staff due to unending civil war.
Safaricom telecommunications Ethiopia PLC (Safaricom Ethiopia) had already rolled out a countrywide staff recruitment drive in Ethiopia as preparations for the commercial launch enter the final stage.
The recruitment process had targeted 1000 people by June 2022 who would receive comprehensive digital training packages through the company’s program dubbed #1moreskill training programme.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had already assured Ethiopians that the entry of Kenya’s Safaricom will help transform their country by positively impacting most sectors of the 112 million population economy.
“Today’s ceremony is the first step in an exciting and rewarding opportunity for Ethiopia. Kenya has seen the great gains and opportunities unleashed by Safaricom across the entirety of our socio-economic landscape.
“Ethiopia now stands at the cusp of making even greater strides in Safaricom’s areas of strength; which include digital presence, mobile money, telephony, data and fibre connectivity, and business solutions,” President Kenyatta said when he toured Ethiopia in June this year.
Safaricom is expected to officially start its operations in Ethiopia next year with an expectation to expend over Ksh.864 billion in ten years, making it the largest FDI in Ethiopia’s history.
It appointed Mr. Anwar Sousa as the Managing Director for Ethiopia operations effective July 1 this year in a bid to cement its entry into Ethiopia.
This was after PM Ahmed issued an operational license in June to the Safaricom-led Global Partnership for Ethiopia consortium which won a Ksh.91.8 billion bid to operate in the country.
And as it remains unsure if Safaricom operations could be delayed due to ongoing conflict and the untimely staff withdrawal, Kenya’s government has announced the tightening of security along its 800-kilometer (500-mile) northern border with Ethiopia.
Police have also set up additional roadblocks to monitor the movement of firearms and foreigners who may try to enter Kenya illegally.
Local communities and the government fear an influx of Ethiopian refugees, as the war raging in the country’s northern Tigray region spills into other areas of Ethiopia and Tigrayan fighters and their allies advance on the capital, Addis Ababa.
A number of nations, including the United States, Denmark and Italy, have asked their citizens in Ethiopia to leave while commercial flights were still available, as Tigrayan rebel forces and their allies advanced towards the capital Addis Ababa.