Allow Safaricom to provide mobile money service, Ruto tells Ethiopia

Kenya's President William Ruto together with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa for the formal launch of Safaricom Ethiopia. [Twitter: @StateHouseKenya]

President William Ruto was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the formal launch of Safaricom Ethiopia.

Safaricom Ethiopia on Thursday switched on its mobile telecommunication network and services in Addis Ababa. The company’s 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services are now in eleven (11) cities in Ethiopia including the capital and the second largest city Dire Dawa.

Below is President Ruto’s speech in Addis Ababa.

“Your Excellency, my dear brother, Dr Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,

Honourable Ministers,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This event is a beautiful celebration of the character, strength and promise of the deep relationship between Kenya and Ethiopia, which dates back to the birth of our republic six decades ago. It testifies to the deep brotherly ties, exemplary neighbourliness and effective partnership that have characterised the essence of the excellent special relationship between our two countries. It is a relationship that was forged by a historic friendship and selfless collaboration in the freedom struggle, which evolved into the nucleus which anchored panAfrican solidarity.

Given that we are in this delightful city, which remains the glorious home of African unity, it is appropriate for us to recall that early Pan-Africanism united African peoples and their leaders in the struggle for sovereignty. For our generation, the values of Pan-Africanism call on us to recognise the mobilising endeavour of our time. Where once we were united by struggle, today we remain united by opportunity. Where once we successfully waged a determined struggle against colonialism, today we are called upon to summon our best efforts to achieve rapid, inclusive and sustainable progress.

It is, therefore, wonderful to witness the splendid transformation underway in Ethiopia, which is integral to the momentum of progress taking place in our region. An important characteristic of this transformation, everywhere it occurs, is convergence. Critical dimensions of rapid sustainable progress align in ways that are impossible to ignore, and appropriate to acknowledge and embrace.

Today’s event is the culmination of a fruitful convergence between the local and the global. This bottom up alignment enlists a regional dimension. Thus a local company, Safaricom Ethiopia, came into existence when Kenya’s Safaricom attracted an international investment joint venture comprising organisations from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Japan.

When the government of Ethiopia resolved to liberalise the telecommunications sector in 2018, it was inspired and determined to use the opportunity to harness the potential in bringing together the best of local, regional and international strategic resources. The ways in which this project has been executed clearly affirms this intent, and the visionary leadership and foresight demonstrated by my brother, His Excellency the Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. It is also another key milestone in our countries’ shared journey of progress, underscored by many success stories in infrastructure development, cross-border trade, peace and security, defence cooperation and diplomacy. We are encouraged by this strong affirmation that the excellent tradition of neighbourly synergy shall continue and flourish.

Another way of appreciating this event is by considering the convergence of capital and technology, which effectively unlocked the Ethiopian government’s vision of catalysing economic performance by liberalising its telecommunications sector through a highly strategic approach. The launch of Safaricom Ethiopia, therefore, is a record-breaking event. It has attracted investments that will, over 10 years, rise to USD 10 billion, to roll out over 8,000 masts throughout the country, thereby creating millions of direct jobs through the roll-out of services, and many more indirectly. This will also make a tremendous contribution to the growth of national revenues.

We are also witnessing the culmination of a beautiful African event which should be replicated consistently throughout the continent. It is the convergence of resources and opportunity to develop transformational infrastructures that will unleash surges of prosperity that uplift our nations and peoples. Africa has come of age, and it is our time to configure our strategies so that our economies attract global capital that will help deliver sustainable prosperity here at home.

Thanks to the liberalisation of the telecoms sector 22 years ago, Kenya shot to the lead in ICT penetration and competitiveness. The Silicon Savannah phenomenon which revolutionalised many sectors, introducing mobile money to the world through MPESA, is one dividend of this liberalisation. The telecommunications sector is one of Kenya’s biggest employers, providing opportunities for millions of young people, both directly and indirectly. It enhances the performance of every sector, delivering improved services more efficiently, and enhancing citizen satisfaction. This is good news for the government and the people: A golden age of productivity and prosperity is at hand, powered by a robust ICT ecosystem, harnessing innovation in the digital economy and financial technology. I congratulate you on this special day for seizing the opportunity to take full charge of emerging opportunities on the path to a destiny of abundance.

The promise behind Safaricom Ethiopia’s entry as the second national telecoms operator are already being felt. The firm has so far recruited 460 Ethiopian staff and 50 graduate trainees to create the seminal talent cohort of digital innovators. It is also working with regional universities to recruit an additional 100 graduates this year. 1,500 Ethiopian businesses are working with Safaricom Ethiopia to develop supply chain and network landlords, with intentions to expand these growing partnerships and supply chains throughout the country.

Following the laying of the necessary infrastructure, on 29th August, 2022, Safaricom Ethiopia began a pilot phased commercial launch of its network and services in Dire Dawa to ensure the provision of quality services. This has been followed by trials across eight other cities in various parts of the country.

Today, therefore, marks yet another major milestone as Safaricom Ethiopia celebrates its launch in the capital city, Addis Ababa. I have been assured that the company is committed to providing commercial services in 25 cities and meeting its license network coverage obligations required by April next year.

I commend my brother, His Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed, for steadfastly backing this monumental game-changer in Ethiopian and regional infrastructural and ICT landscape. This is an emphatic signal that the African Unity of our time has come of age: a continent united by opportunity, and a Pan-Africanism driven by trade. Reliable connectivity is indispensable for competitiveness, and the development of world-class technological and innovative capacity are increasingly vital to our countries’ effective integration into the global economy.

I am confident, therefore, that your government will positively consider Safaricom Ethiopia’s pending request for a licence to provide mobile money service within the existing national framework that for realising your transformational vision in terms of the bold and exciting National Ten-Year Perspective Plan championed by His Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed, and which is indispensable in unlocking new potential in Ethiopia. Safaricom’s participation makes this project the largest investment made abroad by a Kenyan company. The new business will definitely strengthen Safaricom’s performance and propel its medium as well as long-term growth, for our mutual benefit. 14. As I conclude, I congratulate the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, which brings together Safaricom, Vodafone, Vodacom, British International Investment and Sumitomo Corporation, and their host Ethiopia Communications Authority, for an exemplary collaboration which has given birth to a promising and formidable new actor: Safaricom Ethiopia.

Congratulations also to Safaricom Ethiopia for its achievements to date generally, and more particularly as we celebrate the official launch of its commercial services in Ethiopia. Well done! I also wish you success in your operations. May your work create immeasurable opportunities for Ethiopia and bring much pride to both our countries.

Thank you, and may God bless you.”

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