On February 5, the first successful voice call was made using Safaricom’s network with the code ‘07’. Text messaging, internet access, and other network services followed successfully. Meanwhile, Safaricom Ethiopia recently unveiled its first cloud data center in Addis Abeba as it gears up to launch its commercial operations in the country. Kaleyesus Bekele of Origins Media sat down with Tewedaj Eshetu, Public Relations and Communications Manager at Safaricom Telecommunication Ethiopia PLC to discuss more on the telecom giant’s latest developments; excerpts;
Safaricom Telecommunication Ethiopia PLC sponsored the annual Women First 5km road race, which held on Sunday 13th March 2022 in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
Safaricom Ethiopia has decided to sponsor the road race program to help women who wish to tell their experiences regardless of their background, said Tewedaj Eshetu, Public Relations and Communications Manager at Safaricom Telecommunication Ethiopia PLC.
“Participants of the annual Women First 5km road race requested details about Safaricom Ethiopia and the program was successful as getting 10,000 women by itself is b a big deal,” she said.
What make the race more successful was getting families who run together; a chance to approach iconic women’s and responding what Safaricom works, when it will officially launch its operation and sorts of services provided by our company, says Tewedaj.
Safaricom: The first private telecom services operator in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) has granted a nationwide full-service Unified Telecommunications Service License to the Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC effective from 9 July 2021, valid for a term of fifteen years from the effective date.
“So far we’ve invested close to $1 billion including $850 million to get the license in a bid competition, constructing the data center, importing our equipment’s,” said Tewedaj.
She added: “Our investment is continuous and we’ll invest $8.5 billion in the next ten years.” “That clearly depicts our commitment to work in Ethiopia.”
Last year, Safaricom invested $300 million to build a cloud data center and equipment purchase.
Safaricom installed a containerized data center in Addis Abeba. The center with a container type data center is a package of the entire infrastructure components required to configure a data center, including servers, air conditioning, power supplies, disaster prevention, security and monitoring systems.
The first data center has been built at Kality district in Addis Abeba and the second was erected at Safaricom’s headquarters at Bole area.
Within ten years, Safaricom plans to install 11 data centers across various cities in Ethiopia. “These data centers will use state-of-the-art technologies,” Tewedaj assures.
A consortium of Safaricom PLC, Vodafone, Japan’s Sumitomo, Vodacom, and the CDC Group joined the Ethiopian market in July 2021.
Safaricom infrastructural sharing platform
Safaricom Ethiopia is negotiating on sharing infrastructures with Ethio Telecom and signed an agreement to share fiber optics with Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), according to Tewedaj.
“Sharing infrastructures will speed up the network roll out process. We are also building our own infrastructures parallel,” she affirmed.
Requested by Origins Media about the specific date to launch services, she said they have got a license a little less than 9 months ago and reaching out millions will require hard work and time.
Securing a land, importing equipment’s, installing data centers and accelerating other process, among others, will too consume time, she says.
“Previously, it takes 57 days to import equipment’s and now it requires 16 days as the awareness is high on the issue among the Customs Commission officials,” she opines. “It’s a learning curve for us. Furthermore, we are getting the necessary supports from the government side,” as she puts it.
“We’ve been working closely with the ECA, the regulatory agency. And we are getting the necessary backing,” the Communication Manager disclosed. “We faced no problems as such.”
She went on saying, “About securing land, we received a warming welcome from the regions.”
“The Land Bank and Development Corporation has also been providing supports for us”.
Launching M-PESA in Ethiopia
Safaricom is mostly known for providing its M-Pesa, which is a mobile banking service that allows users to store and transfer money through their mobile phones. M-Pesa was introduced in Kenya as an alternative way for the population of the country to have access to financial services.
M-Pesa is important to make a cashless society.
Safaricom Ethiopia has been under preparatory stages to launch this service in Ethiopia. “There’s an appetite for this platform in the country,” Tewedaj confirms.
The topics, which are under discussion with the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), are about what the financial regulation allows and prohibits, she says.
“But, the NBE has a positive outlook towards Safaricom’s plans, she said, adding, “NBE provided us a training focused on what is the regulation, which parts could be amended and how these can supports Safaricom.”
“The regulation is now under amendment, and M-Pesa will launch the service once we get the license,” Tewedaj, who is the first Communication Manager for country’s first private telecom operator, told Origins Media.
Services provided by Safaricom, job creation plans
“What we learn from the Consortium of Safaricom is a service quality,” she clearly articulated. “Systems, experiences, ways of conducting operations that are successful in Africa, Europe and Middle East, will be in the implemented in Ethiopia.”
Moreover, Safaricom will create 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs in ten years. So far, Safaricom has hired 321 employees from different countries directly and that figure will reach to 1000 until mid-2022.
“Such a hiring trend is indispensable for skills and knowledge transfer,” she said.
Meanwhile, as part of its social contract, which is a service provision by itself , Safaricom has been striving to modernize education through technology.
This social contract commitment to support education is in addition to the $8.5 billion investment plan in ten years, Tewedaj underlined.
Making Addis Abeba the center, Safaricom is intending to expand its services across Ethiopia in different phases.
The telecom giant has been hammering on implementing its social contract. “We are committed to implement our social contract,” says Tewedaj.
Digitalizing education is part of that contract. To launch such activities discussions will be held with the Ministry of Education. “Providing internet access in areas where there’s no education is part of the digitalization process,” she emphasized.
Creating platforms to enable access to education for children’s who have been denied of it due to various factors will be among the visions of Safaricom Ethiopia.
Additionally, Safaricom has a program dubbed “Discover Graduate Program”, which emphasized on recruitment of fresh graduates.
“We’ll hire 450 graduates in the upcoming three years,” the Manager revealed. “We even received 130,000 applications for this year intake of 150 graduates.”
Graduates of finance and technology fields, among others are mainly interested to join the Company.
“Anything that underpins the society such as working on youths and a shift towards digitalization process will be our focus area in a bid to bolster the national digitalization agenda,” she outlined.