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Ethiopia: Safaricom acquires locally-made towers as part of US$ 1.5 billion investment plan

Telecom giant Safaricom has announced plans to erect 13 cell towers in Ethiopia, marking its first batch received from Woda Metal Industry, a tower manufacturer based in Addis Ababa.

Initially, Safaricom Ethiopia ordered 68 cell towers at a cost of 50 million Birr from the local manufacturer. This order underscores its commitment to supporting the nation’s industries while expanding its customer base.

Earlier this month, Safaricom unveiled a strategic plan to invest US$1.5 billion to enhance its network coverage in Ethiopia. The investment aims to build 5,000 new towers over the next three years.

Currently, Safaricom operates approximately 2,500 telecommunication towers, with around 1,000 of these leased from Ethio Telecom.

“The quality of their towers is good; their galvanization plant is the biggest in Africa and their cost-effectiveness will enable us to expand our network more efficiently and effectively,” said Safaricom Ethiopia CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte.

Vanhelleputte lauded Woda Metal Industry for producing high quality towers similar to the ones the Telco used to import, but at lower prices that would enable rapid deployment of cell tower infrastructure across the vast nation.

Safaricom’s operations in Ethiopia have faced significant challenges due to high inflation and political instability in the northern regions. Lowering infrastructure costs while maintaining quality could push Safaricom Ethiopia into profitability by Q2.

Woda Metal Industry, established in Ethiopia in 2016, was formed through a joint investment of US$65 million by China’s Shandong Zhaowei Steel Tower and Japan’s Alpha Business Services. The company also manufactures cell towers for Ethio Telecom and power transmission towers.

“We are excited to expand our network and improve connectivity for millions of Ethiopians,” said Wim Vanhelleputte, CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia. “This invest­ment underscores our dedication to bridg­ing the digital divide and driving econom­ic growth in Ethiopia,” said the Telco in a statement.

By the end of March this year, Safaricom’s network in Ethiopia covered only 38% of the population. The company aims to expand this coverage to 55% by the end of June.

Safaricom has already invested over US$850 million in enhancing its network across the country. This amount represents a substantial portion of the US$1.3 billion Safaricom has allocated for investment in Ethiopia over the next five years.

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