I am not all that well informed about the form of government in Ethiopia. I got a quick lesson from our host about how it’s not a communist dictatorship any longer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a dictatorship.
In Kenya and my guess is that most of the world outside of the US has mobile phones that take a SIM card. You buy a phone, then for a very nominal fee you also get a SIM card; this is what has your mobile number on it. If you like, you can have a couple of SIM cards from different companies, and switch out your number.
For airtime, you buy phone credit as needed and ‘top-up’. The only requirement is getting something like 250 shillings worth loaded on your phone every 3 months. (I probably go through 500 a week.) Even if you let it lapse, a trip to your local dealer will get it unlocked if you top-up at the same time.
I think the last time I got a SIM card it was 300 shillings, now I guess they are only 50 shillings, that’s under a dollar. Sometimes companies give them away as a promotion.
Since I knew my Kenyan line wouldn’t work in Ethiopia, why not just get a SIM card and then I could be connected there in Addis. Not so fast, honey.
Getting a SIM card and essentially getting a phone number in Ethiopia costs a little more. But it’s also a bit rigorous. Here is the process, step by step:
Go to the Telecommunications offices.
Get frisked going in.
Wait in line to be served.
Fill out an application (in Amharic, which totally makes sense).
With it, submit two passport photos and a copy of your national ID or passport.
Pay of fee of 95 Birr (just over $7).
Easy as - ?
I happen to have a couple passport photos in my wallet because I didn’t know if I would need them to get a visa at the airport upon arrival; I didn’t for the visa. When I didn’t have a copy of my passport nor my passport with me, I was made to promise to return with it. There is something to be said for the flexibility of all these rules.
Quite honestly, I thought all this care taken for issuing a phone number to me for a week’s use was over the top. I really had no intention of returning the following day with a copy of my passport. That was not until the man who waited on me at the telecommunications office called the following morning to remind me to bring that copy in.
Opp. They have my number.