Ethiopia telecom, France telecom at loggerheads over service delivery

February 14, 2012 (The Africa Report) – Mobile telecommunications customers are riled at what they describe as poor service delivery and have demanded an immediate improvement from Ethio-Telecom and France Telecom, which took over management of the Ethiopian firm a year ago.

However, Ethio-Telecom has implied that the problem was the French company, amidst reports that the two sides are said to be renegotiation their contract agreement.

In November 2010, Ethiopia awarded France telecom a 30 million Euro two year contract to manage Ethio-Telecom. But the past few weeks have seen Ethio-Telecom customers launch massive complaints over the company’s poor service.

Many say the company’s mobile phone credit cards are defective.

“It took me two days to enter the number on my scratch card. I don’t really understand why this company can’t improve its service. We heard that France Telecom took over the management, but we are yet to see any improvement,” Tesema Belay, an irate customer, said.

Like Belay, many customers are expressing their bitter dissatisfaction over the company’s mobile and internet services, saying that “it is easier to win a lottery than to recharge your credit”.

“While telephone services in Ethiopia are the most expensive in Africa, we are not as lucky to get the desired service” Belay continued.

Back to fax machines

Customers have also complained at the price of SIM cards, which were lowered from US$10 last year to a little over US$2 recently, saying they still remained too expensive.

International companies and business organisations that depend on the state owned telecommunications company’s services, have also expressed their dissatisfaction over the poor services.

Officials of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECE), one of the affected companies, say they are unable to receive or send information on their daily business activities.

“Not only has it affected the daily monetary transaction. We wonder when the service will be improved,” Eleni Mekuria, CEO of the commodity exchange, said.

He complained that services which would usually take a few minutes now take up to four or five days as a result of poor internet and telecommunications connectivity.

Mekuria also indicated that the ECE had been forced to resort to using fax machines to convey messages to and from other branches as only 41 per cent of the exchange’s branches were networked to the main office due to poor service.

Officials at Ethio-Telecom have admitted that there were problems with their services.

Debretsion Gebremichael, Minister for Communication and Information Technology and Ethio-Telecom board chairman, said while the poor delivery was as a result of France Telecom’s implementation weaknesses, not all service problems were to be blamed on the French firm.

Gebremichael said the problem with the credit recharge vouchers were because of a lack of preparedness by France Telecom.

–The Africa Report