Ever since I arrived in Ethiopia, access to Blogger has been completely blocked across the country. This was quite a pain for anyone wanting follow Blogger blogs – they could be accessed via online RSS readers – but then you still missed out on any images. It was also a problem for those VSO volunteers who had set up blogs before they came to Ethiopia then found they couldn’t update them easily (or at all!).
The good news is that today I’ve found I can now access Blogger directly! So for some reason ETC (telecoms co) or Ethiopian government must have decided it was no longer a threat.
The bad news (from Bloomberg) is that it seems unlikely the ETC monopoly on telecoms will be relaxed – meaning ongoing outrageous costs for mobile SIMs and broadband internet connections. To quote from their article (note that is the correct number of zeros in the 1Mb broadband monthly cost):
Girma Birru, Ethiopia’s trade minister, said Ethiopia has no plans to liberalize the telecommunications and financial-services industries to gain access to World Trade Organization (WTO), Bloomberg news reported.
“Primarily we will join the WTO not to make others happy, but to make our economy work,” Birru said. “So to the extent it helps our economy we will liberalize things, but if it’s not going to assist our goals in trade and development we will not liberalize. Why do we have to?”
“I don’t see any plan” to break up or sell Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp. to private investors, Birru said. “If there are some problems it has nothing to do with ownership. It has only to do with management. Management and ownership don’t necessarily go together.”
According to Bloomberg news, Ethiopian Telecommunication charges $35 for a mobile-phone SIM card, where in neighboring Somalia and Kenya it costs less than $5. A 1-megabyte per second Internet connection costs more than $2,000 a month in Ethiopia. In South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, a similar service costs between 600 rand ($59) and 760 rand, according to the http://www.mybroadband.co.za Web site.
Newai Gebre-Ab, chief economic advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said “the company [ETC] is “generating a lot of money and that money is being put to good use for development of infrastructure,”.