Safaricom Ethiopia set to surpass Kenyan operations

Safaricom Ethiopia is on track to surpass its Kenyan lead office in the next few years, in what could soon shift the focus of East Africa’s most profitable firm from Nairobi to Adis Ababa.   

According to the firm’s latest financial numbers, Safaricom’s Ethiopia subsidiary launched in 2022 is set to surpass the 20-year-old Kenyan business in the next few years in terms of subscribers, network infrastructure, jobs and earnings. 

This comes on the back of a rapid infrastructure build-up that has so far seen the Ethiopia subsidiary boast network coverage that is a third of Kenya’s in less than two years of launching commercial operations.

“We take pride in our achievements having launched over 2,200 sites so far in 33 cities, acquired over four million customers and attained 33 per cent population coverage within 15 months of our commercial roll-out,” said Safaricom Ethiopia Chairman Michael Joseph. 

This network coverage is significant compared to Safaricom Kenya, which currently has 6,300 base stations built over the past 20 years. 

In the year ended March 2023, Safaricom spent a total of Sh96.1 billion in capital investment, more than half of which (Sh55.7 billion) went to the Ethiopian unit. The same applies to the company’s mobile money and data businesses, which have reported a meteoric rise in subscribers and usage in the first year of launch. 

As of 31st December last year, Safaricom Ethiopia saw 3.1 million new M-Pesa customers, equivalent to 10 per cent of the total customer base. 

With more than 120.3 million citizens spread across a 1.1 million square kilometre landmass, Ethiopia is more than twice the size of Kenya and this points to opportunities to double the eye-watering earnings reported by Safaricom in Kenya over the years. 

Mobile data has also emerged as one of the leading strategies that Safaricom is pushing to advance market share in Ethiopia.

Last year, the firm’s network, currently billed as the fastest mobile data network in Ethiopia, reported higher average usage per customer figures compared to Kenya. 

This has prompted a strategic shift in how the firm is positioning and marketing its digital services offering. 

“Previously, we were going to market primarily through a product lens,” explained Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa.

Source: The Standard

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