Ethiopian Communications Service Proclamation

By Mike Conradi, Partner, DLA Piper London

The Communications Service Proclamation, which was adopted by the Ethiopian Parliament recently, introduces a number of major changes into the Ethiopian telecom sector. A brief explanation of the major changes is provided below together with some commentary from DLA Piper’s telecoms team.

Note that this is not a legal opinion and it is based on the draft of the Proclamation – the official version is not yet published.

Summary of the Proclamation

1. The most important aspect of the Proclamation is that it has liberalized the sector, which has been monopolized by the government for many decades. Its relevant part (Article 54) states that the telecom sector should be “open without limitation to private investors including both domestic investors and foreign investors”. Therefore, foreign companies can now engage in the provision of telecom services in Ethiopia.

2. The Proclamation establishes a new and an independent government body known as the “Ethiopian Communications Authority”. This body, as per the Proclamation, is the principal regulatory body for the telecom sector in Ethiopia. It is mandated, among other things, to license and supervise telecom services providers, to regulate tariffs and to specify technical standards in the sector. As a result of the establishment of the Authority, the role of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, which is currently the main regulatory body of the telecom sector, is generally limited to formulating national policies for the sector and liaising with the Authority to facilitate the exercise of proper regulatory powers on actors in the communications sector.

3. As corollary to the liberalization of the sector, the Proclamation also incorporates rules for preventing and controlling anti-competitive acts in the telecom market. For instance, it prohibits telecom operators from engaging in acts of abuse of significant market power (Article 47) and empowers the Authority to enforce the Ethiopian competition law on the participants of the sector.

4. The Proclamation also contains other rules on economic regulations of the sector. It, for instance, stipulates the requirements for entering into interconnection agreements between telecom operators (Article 41) and grants the Authority the power to intervene in such agreements for ensuring the compliance of the agreements with the Proclamation.

5. Additionally, it empowers the Authority to issue directives, including on matters of consumer protection, for the proper implementation of the Proclamation. With respect to consumer protection (Article 49), the Proclamation authorizes the Authority to require telecom operators to issue codes of conduct for protecting the interests of their consumers. The Proclamation also has mandated the Council of Ministers (the federal executive branch) to issue detailed regulations for facilitating the enforcement of the Proclamation.


This new Proclamation will be a critical piece of legislation for the success of Ethiopia’s (announced) plans to privatise Ethio Telecom, which is currently the monopoly telecoms provider in the country, and to introduce competition by issuing new licences. Any potential investor (whether in Ethio Telecom or in any new licensee) will want to understand its provisions and the extent to which it meets international best practice standards.

With that in mind we have a number of comments about the Proclamation in its current form. We discuss some of these below:

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