For years there has been a waiting list to obtain a SIM card in Ethiopa, due to a huge backlog at the state monopoly Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) — the exclusive distributor. There have been typically few options for those who wanted mobile phones: get on a two-year waiting list, rent by the week, or get a leg up from a government ministry. When the ETC offered up 200,000 mobile phone lines to the public this week, the result was a veritable stampede. The huge demand for mobile services in Ethiopia is going unmet despite the ample worldwide supply of handsets and telcos, because of the government's reluctance to liberalise their telecom market. Interestingly, despite the new availability of a flood of SIM cards, the country's government-licensed mobile shops are still doing rather poorly. In the case of handsets, Ethiopia's mobile users have found a way to end-run around the government's lockdown: by flocking to local markets where cheap, illegally imported phones are in large supply.
[Via Smart Mobs]