Safaricom Ethiopia has shut down its sites in Amhara, the country's second-largest region.
This move comes after the federal government declared a six-month state of emergency in the area on August 4, 2023, due to a crisis between the military and the Fano militia, a part-time militia with no formal command structure.
For context, Fano supported federal forces during the two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region, which ended last November with a truce. However, the alleged disregard by the national government for Amhara's security by some in the area has strained relations.
Conflict reportedly broke out between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and the Amhara militia Fano on August 1, 2023, in several Amhara Region locations, beginning in Kobo and Debre Tabor. The following day, Fano took control of Lalibela Airport.
Consequently, the government declared the region a state of emergency two days later. And now, millions of people in the Amhara region can no longer use Safaricom's services.
The shutdown's impact on Safaricom Ethiopia's 1,272 sites hasn’t yet been made public. But Safaricom Ethiopia chairman, Michael Joseph, said the closure halted the company's momentum for growth in the vast nation.
In light of recent events, Joseph stated that the country was a competitive market and that its stability took precedence over all other interests because an unstable environment can make it challenging to work effectively.
By the end of 2024, Safaricom hopes to have 3,000 network sites in Ethiopia. With 397 collocated sites, Safaricom Ethiopia had 875 own-built network sites that covered 22 cities across the nation.
Besides, the telco had 2.1 million 90-day active customers, with 10 million being the goal for 2024.
Nonetheless, Safaricom Ethiopia’s plans to introduce its mobile money service in the nation before the end of the year are still on track.