(Reuters) – Ethiopia will award two telcos licences to multinational mobile companies, a senior official said on Friday, in the first detailed formal announcement of the government’s plans for opening one of the world’s last major closed telecom markets.

The government will also offer a minority stake in Ethio Telecom, the monopoly operator, and foreign firms will be invited to bid.

“We have announced the market structure as ‘two plus one’,” State Minister of Finance Eyob Tekalign Tolina told Reuters by telephone, referring to the two news licences and a 49 percent stake in Ethio Telecom, the monopoly operator.

Multinational companies have been eagerly awaiting the government’s announcement on the market structure.

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.

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