(170815) -- KHARTOUM, Aug. 15, 2017 (Xinhua) -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R, Front) greets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (L, Front) in Khartoum, Sudan, on Aug. 15, 2017. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn arrived in Khartoum Tuesday for talks between the two countries on bilateral ties and regional and international issues of mutual concern. (Xinhua/Mohamed Khidir)
INTERNATIONAL - Ethiopia  will split its state-owned telecommunications company and sell stakes in the two new entities piecemeal to international operators, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.

Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation, or EthioTelecom, has more than 60 million mobile and fixed-line subscribers, dominating a phone market that has long been coveted by MTN Group and Vodacom Group, Africa’s biggest wireless operators by sales and value respectively.

“Certain amounts of shares will be sold gradually in 10, 20, 30 years,” Abiy told lawmakers in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday.

“We are not giving it up in one go, it is not possible.”

Ethiopians will be offered 5percent in the new companies, and between 30percent and 40percent will be sold to telecommunications operators that are top-10 players globally.

There’ll be at least a year or two of “intensive study,” Abiy said in televised comments.

Abiy, who took office two months ago, is speeding up long-awaited market reforms, such as liberalising state companies and reducing the role of the military in the economy. Ethiopia’s output has expanded faster than any other in Africa over the past decade and is poised to grow by 8.5percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Ethiopians in the $80billion (R1.08trillion) economy apply for between 1000 and 1200 new SIM cards daily and keeping the company as a monopoly denies subscribers the benefit of competition and the nation much-needed income, Abiy said.

“Keeping it the way it is now is dangerous; transferring it like some other African countries can be disastrous too,” he said.

- BLOOMBERG