A5: Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?
In August 2019, the government established the ECA, the primary regulatory body overseeing the telecommunications sector; it is not yet clear if the ECA will operate in a fair and independent manner. Prime Minister Abiy appointed Balcha Reba as its first director-general; Reba previously led the ECA’s predecessor, a directorate of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology.
In October 2019, the ECA started a public consultation process on the liberalization of the telecommunications market and the ECA’s plans to issue new telecommunications licenses; the ECA issued a new telecommunications license in June 2021 (see A4). In June 2020, the ECA opened a public consultation process on five draft directives, including regulations for consumer protection, dispute resolution, and telecommunications licensing. The ECA made the draft directives available on their website in English and Amharic.
Activists and civil society raised concerns about the ECA’s independence. In May 2020, Kinfe Yilma, a law professor at Addis Ababa University, wrote that the regulator’s responsibilities remained unclear, referring to overlapping responsibilities shared with other government ministries and agencies.
Prior to the establishment of the ECA, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency was the primary regulatory body overseeing the telecommunications sector. In October 2018, INSA, a government agency that has de facto authority over the internet with a mandate to protect the communications infrastructure and prevent cybercrime, was placed under a new Ministry of Peace created by the Abiy government.