By Dawit Endeshaw
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia will issue up to five banking licenses to foreign investors in the next five years, part of plans to open up the financial services sector to foreign competition, a senior central bank official said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has promised to open up sectors previously controlled by state firms to help drive foreign investment inflows and economic growth.
“We will give three to five licenses within five years,” vice governor of the central bank Solomon Desta told reporters.
Ethiopia’s banking industry is dominated by the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, and the sector has 29 players, all of them locally owned.
Desta said foreign investors would have different options to enter the industry, including forming joint ventures with domestic players or establishing local subsidiaries.
Foreign investors have long-eyed sectors including banking, telecoms, transportation and aviation in Ethiopia, a country of more than 100 million people and one of the biggest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Two years ago, Ethiopia’s government granted a telecoms licence to a private operator to break the monopoly of state-owned Ethio Telecom in that sector.
The operator, a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom, Vodafone, and Japan’s Sumitomo, paid $850 million for the licence.
Ethiopia has also launched a tender process to sell a 45% stake in Ethio Telecom and issue a third telecom licence.