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ADDIS ABABA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Ethiopia plans to award two telecoms licences to multinational mobile companies by April 2020, breaking the state monopoly by April, the new communications regulator said on Tuesday, an apparent delay in the timeline officials had previously set.
Balcha Reba, director general of the Ethiopian Communications Authority, gave the date at a press conference. In June, Reuters reported that Ethiopia would issue the licences by the end of the year, quoting Ethiopian officials and telecoms executives with direct knowledge of the process.
The issuing of licences will end a state monopoly and open up one of the world's last major closed telecoms markets in the country of around 100 million.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a push to liberalise the country's economy last year.
The communications regulator, formed after parliament passed a law covering the liberalisation of the sector, will hold a meeting on Nov. 12 in the Ethiopian capital to answer questions of interested companies, Balcha said.
Vodafone, South African operator MTN, France's Orange and Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates are likely to be among the leading contenders vying for entry into the Ethiopian market. (Reporting by Kumera Gemechu Additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Giulia Paravicini Writing by Maggie Fick Editing by David Evans)