Ethiopia’s first smartcard manufacturing facility will start production of GSM SIM cards from November 2021.
Lootah Industries PLC; a local company located in Addis Ababa Haile Garment area, started development of this high-tech facility 2 years ago and after investing US$ 4 million into the factory they are going to start production this year.
“It is with great pride and honor that I am pleased to announce that we have established the first smartcard manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and East Africa,” said Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed Lootah, Chairman of the Lootah Group of Companies.
“We thank the government for their bold vision to liberalize the economy, telecom sector and attract new high-tech industries to Ethiopia. We completed the factory in record time despite the challenges faced by Covid. We are committed to serving the people of Ethiopia and provide them with the best technology possible,” remarked the Chairman.
It is to be recalled that, Ethio Telecom had floated a request to manufacture GSM SIM cards locally in Ethiopia in September 2020. The telecom company at the time wanted to bring this technology to Ethiopia and support the development of the local economy. Of course this was because all the GSM SIM cards were imported from foreign suppliers which meant payment in US$ for the imports, logistics and other costs that could be saved by locally manufacturing the SIM cards.
Ethio Telecom signed the 3 years master frame agreement with Lootah Industries PLC in September 2021 and the delivery of the 1st batch of SIM cards is set to take place in November 2021.
“The benefits of this facility are immense. It is a complete gamechanger as this puts Ethiopia into the few elite countries in Africa capable of manufacturing and exporting Smartcards,” expressed Prateek Dayal, Executive Director for Lootah Industries.
“The facility is built to world class standards keeping in view the requirements of this industry. We invested in the best German equipment to ensure the highest standards of quality. We have a long-term vision, and we will move into the banking and National ID sectors soon,” explained Prateek while citing areas that the company can diversify in down the road.
The factory has a current capacity to manufacture 40 million smartcards per year. But it has been designed to easily increase this to 120 million smartcards as more operators enter the country, Banking and ID businesses come online and the exports start.
Also on the expansion plans is an investment into a production line to manufacture Telecom Scratch cards (Voucher Cards) which can produce 1 billion PIN’s per year. This is not only enough for the local requirements of Ethiopia but can also allow for some exports.
In terms of human resources there will be a requirement to hire 250 plus staff locally when fully operational. The factory is already in the process of adding 25 employees during October.
The Ethiopian Investment Commission and Ministry of Trade have visited the factory already and have provided their full support to the project.
The Lootah Group has been active in Ethiopia for over 8 years. Their business interests are spread across various sectors such as Information Technology, Telecommunications, Agriculture, Steel, Switchgears, bottled water and construction. During this period the group has invested more than US$ 50 million into the country.
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