The Orange logo hangs inside an Orange SA mobile phone store in Marseille, France, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Orange is in early talks about buying Bouygues SA's phone and television businesses, according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would reduce the number of wireless carriers in France and follow in rivals' footsteps of bringing telecommunications and media together. Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Orange, France’s number one telecoms operator, sees the planned liberalisation of Ethiopia’s telecoms market taking shape in 2020, Chief Financial Officer Ramon Fernandez said on Friday.

Ethiopia is one of the last countries whose telecoms industry remains in the hands of the government. Orange is one of the leading contenders seeking to benefit from the end of state-controlled Ethio Telecom’s monopoly, pushed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Sources said earlier this month that the government aimed to award telecom licenses by the end of 2019, with the new operators expected to launch services next year. However some industry executives have expressed scepticism over the timetable.

Africa and the Middle East is Orange’s fastest-growing region for the telecoms group, which controls 17 operators on the continent. The group, which competes with other major players such as Vodafone-controlled Vodacom, Airtel Africa and South Africa’s MTN in the region, generated 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in the area last year, up 5% from a year earlier.

“This a pace we can keep on the long run, with a profitability performance at the same level, or even above,” Fernandez said.The group is betting that its financial services provider Orange Money, which offers money transfers and payment services, will help it in the race to get into Ethiopia’s market, he added.