The Politics of Telecommunications and Development in Ethiopia
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The purpose of this study was to explore salient issues in the Ethiopian telecommunications sector. In doing so, the research investigated the institutional history and origins of state-monopoly of telecommunications in Ethiopia from the first ministerial level communications-related institution, the Ministry of Posts, Telegraph and Telephone, to Ethio-Telecom presently. Using a theoretical framework informed by political economy of communications, development studies and political science, the study explored the foundations, rationales and implications of contesting ideologies in the Ethiopian telecommunications sector involving the Ethiopian state and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The study also explored the extent to which, and why, the Ethiopian public endorses/denounces state monopoly of the telecommunications sector. It also investigated the premises on which Sino-Ethiopian partnerships in the Ethiopian telecommunications sector are laid. A triangulated, multi-method research approach involving document analysis, online survey and semi-structured interviewing was employed in this study. World Bank documents and other secondary resources were analyzed to chronicle the institutional history of telecommunications in Ethiopia. IMF reports and Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front economic programs and political manifestos were carefully examined to address contesting liberalization discourses pertinent to the Ethiopian telecommunications sector. An online survey was administered to collect public opinion about, among other things, state monopoly of telecommunications in Ethiopia. Ethiopian government officials, IMF country representatives, Ethio-Telecom consultants and other important figures were interviewed to explore the pros and cons of Sino-Ethiopian relations in the Ethiopian telecommunications sector as well. The study revealed that a host of different factors, most notably the rise of China as an alternative global economic power, have shifted Ethiopia's preference of global development partnership from West to East including in telecommunications infrastructure development. Growing concerns over state monopoly of telecommunications were reported by users, particularly in relation to lack of quality of services and fear of surveillance.