EthioTelecomAddis Ababa, Ethiopia – Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, whose country applied for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession in 2003, has opposed the liberalisation of the telecom sector.

Mr Hailemariam has said the sector would remain a government monopoly, in order to generate revenue for a railway project.

Speaking at the National Business Forum with the private sector in Addis Ababa Thursday, Mr Hailemariam argued that if Ethiopia liberalised telecoms, the government would be unable to generate 6 billion birr ($323 million) per annum from the sector, which Addis was currently using to finance the Ethiopia- Djibouti railway project.

“You may think that the government can get money from taxation; but there is no way that we can generate this much from taxation,” the Premier said.

“Therefore, the sector remains with us (government) for the years to come.”

However, experiences of neighbouring countries tell a different story.

In 2012, Uganda generated $600 million from half a dozen operators, including the state-owned Uganda Telecom.

The country was expecting an increase of some $12 million from the new tax expected to be effected next month.

According to a Gallup survey mobile operator, revenue in Africa topped $41 billion in 2012, 11 per cent up from the previous year.

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania boast the highest rates of mobile money transfer in Africa last year.

In addition, Gallup survey also shows remittance transfer using mobile phones, which is not available in Ethiopia, was being used in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.