Two mobile money platforms have launched in Ethiopia, as the country looks to improve the take-up of bank services.
Dutch firm BelCash and Ireland’s Moss ICT are providing the infrastructure over which local banks and financial institutions are providing deposit, withdrawal, transfer and payment services via mobile device.
BelCash’s Hellocash service launched as a pilot in January 2015. And will launch commercially when it receives approval from the National Bank of Ethiopia. The hope is to receive permission in between three and six months’ time, the firm told Mobile World Live. Over 10,000 users expected to be active during the pilot phase
And BelCash could have 10 million customers by 2017 or 2018, the firm’s chief executive Vince Diop bullishly told Reuters. It would receive a fee for each transaction made.
Customers of Lion International Bank and Somali Micro Finance are to offer HelloCash to their account holders, said BelCash.
Diop also said the Cooperative Bank of Oromia was signed up. The country has a total of sixteen privately owned banks. Two more are in the Hellocash camp but have yet to make an application to the country’s central bank.
Meanwhile rival Moss ICT’s m-Birr service, which was approved by the country’s central bank in December, will be offered by five microfinance firms. It already has 5,000 to 6,000 users and expects to add 13,000 in February.
Moss ICT’s deputy general manager Kidist Negeye said the potential market was “in the millions”.
Only one in ten people currently have a bank account in Ethiopia.
BelCash is pushing its service’s interoperability and shared infrastructure features. The system is designed for multiple banks and microfinance firms to be interconnected and offer the mobile money service to their customers. Partnering financial institutions are able to share each other’s agent and branch network to serve each other’s customers.
This allow the customer of any partnering bank to visit any agent or branch to conduct financial services regardless of which bank the customer belongs too. The sharing of agent networks allow partnering banks to optimise their investment as well as increase nationwide service coverage.