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Helping a Small Business Modernize Ethiopia’s Communications Infrastructure
Meeting the development needs of Ethiopia’s fast‐growing economy is prompting some of Africa’s most high‐profile infrastructure investments. In 2015, as the country accelerated its plans to transition from analog to digital broadcast television across 80 percent of Ethiopia’s territory, it set off
fierce competition among technology suppliers from every corner of the globe.
       No fewer than five Chinese companies competed for this opportunity, including state-owned enterprises and defense industry manufacturers that receive significant support from the Chinese government.
In response, GatesAir, an Ohio-based small business that focuses on solutions for over-the-air broadcasting and public safety communications, looked for ways to successfully navigate this competitive disadvantage. The company, which was established nearly 100 years ago, initially obtained advocacy support for its bid from the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. The company then turned to USTDA for support.
USTDA has a proven record of leveling the playing field for companies like GatesAir that face unfair competition from foreign companies offering extensive incentives that exceed tender requirements. The Agency carefully assessed the strategic importance of this opportunity and acted to help ensure that the project would be built by a U.S. small business using American goods and services.
USTDA responded by offering the Ethiopia Broadcast Authority a specialized training and skillset development program. The Ethiopia Broadcast Authority agreed, and GatesAir subsequently won the contract for the digital conversion project.
Ethiopia’s investment in American technology has opened up valuable broadcast spectrum that will strengthen essential communications services and improve connectivity for the country’s isolated and underserved populations. In addition, GatesAir’s winning bid has generated export opportunities for U.S. manufacturers in California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Montana for a range of products that includes transmission line systems, tower assemblies, antennas and generators.
USTDA is dedicated to connecting small U.S. businesses with development opportunities overseas. That’s why this project represents a three-way success: for small business, for U.S. jobs and for Ethiopia as it begins a new era of communications.
“USTDA’s grant was one of the key factors
that differentiated our bid from those of
the competition. By being able to offer this grant, it showed a commitment from the U.S. government to the people of Ethiopia and a commitment to raising their levels of education.”
Bruce D. Swail
Chief Executive Officer, GatesAir

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