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Interview: Pedro Rabacal on building Safaricom's network in Ethiopia

Pedro Rabacal, former CTIO of Safaricom Ethiopia, spoke to Connecting Africa Editor Paula Gilbert at the NOVACOM Digital Transformation Strategy Summit in Franschhoek, South Africa about how he and his team built Safaricom's greenfield network in Ethiopia.

He gave us an insider's look into the challenges of building a network from scratch and the logistical difficulties of getting equipment into a landlocked country like Ethiopia.

He also shared the pros of breaking new ground without having to worry about issues with legacy infrastructure and the freedom of designing a completely cloud-native network with 2G, 3G and 4G all launching at once.

We discussed Ethiopia's unique market, which up until recently only had one telecom operator, state-owned Ethio Telecom.

A consortium led by Kenya's Safaricom was awarded a telecom license in May 2021, ending the Horn of Africa's telecom monopoly.

Rabacal shared the trials and tribulations that led to Safaricom Ethiopia's official network launch in August 2022 and how it has managed to add about 500,000 customers per month since then.

Ethiopia continues to liberalize the telecom sector, and another telecom license is now up for grabs.

With a population of around 120 million, Ethiopia offers huge opportunity for growth in mobile and digital services and more foreign investment will help aid Internet penetration as well as digital and financial inclusion.

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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