Safaricom has moved out some of its staff from Ethiopia, where it plans to start operations next year. Staff members were evacuated on Wednesday and Friday in batches, via commercial flights to Nairobi.
The action comes against the backdrop of heightened conflict in Ethiopia where Tigrayan forces and their allies have been steadily advancing towards the capital, Addis Ababa. The political upheaval has affected Safaricom’s expansion plans in Ethiopia, although how the situation plays out remains to be seen.
Safaricom holds a controlling 55.7% stake in the Global Partnership for Ethiopia, which also includes Japan’s Sumitomo (27.2%), Vodacom (6.2%), and the CDC Group (10.9%).
The government in Ethiopia declared a six-month military rule days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on members of the public in Addis to take up arms and protect their neighborhoods against the Tigray Defence Forces, an amalgamation of forces from the former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and other groups.
Intent on overthrowing the government, nine antigovernmental groups on Friday, November 5 announced the formation of an alliance called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces.
TPLF has been embroiled in a conflict with the Ethiopian National Defence Force since November 2020. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives and over 2 million displaced according to the United Nations (UN).
After winning their bid to secure a licence allowing them to compete with State-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom, Safaricom had began seconding staff from Nairobi to work on product and network development ahead of the launch.
It stated that it would gradually reduce its Kenyan workforce in the country with the company keen on employing Ethiopian citizens. President Uhuru Kenyatta is among global leaders who have called for concerted efforts to end the conflict in Ethiopia.
“The situation has now escalated into a nationwide social convulsion of historical proportions for Ethiopia. The origins of the situation, bitter and unacceptable as they might appear, can no longer be used as a justification for the continued suffering, loss of lives and the extended open battle that now engulfs the nation.”
“It, therefore, concerns me deeply that after one year, the problem has not abated but has in fact deteriorated. The battle has continued, the loss of lives continues, the displacement persists and suffering and humanitarian calamity have taken root in the country,” he stated.