Understanding what is Happening in ICT in Ethiopia: A Supply- and Demand-side Analysis of the ICT Sector

As demonstrated in Asian and European telecommunication systems characterised by adequate budgets and efficient administration, a state monopoly in the right circumstances can make rapid and major strides towards universal telecommunications access. Ethiopia has been trying to emulate such a trend in its own economy. Under a public monopoly, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Ethiopia has seen substantial growth over the last five years. Mobile telecommunications grew from a mere 1.2million subscribers in 2007 to around 22million subscribers by the end of 2012. Internet and data subscribers grew seven fold from 31 400 in 2007 to 221 000 in 2011. By 2012, the voice communication coverage had reached 64%, a significant progression given Ethiopia’s start from a low base. However, the Ethiopian ICT sector remains underdeveloped compared to its peers in Africa, such as its neighbours Kenya and Sudan. The country’s global ICT index has only improved marginally over the past few years. Mobile penetration is three times less than that of the African average of 60%, at roughly 25% in 2012. The 2.7% internet access ratio is half the African average of over 5%. Broadband penetration, which has been found to increase competitiveness in institutions and between individuals, is, at 0.1% in 2012, 40 times smaller than the African average of 4%.