Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lauded the launch of a mobile money platform by Ethio Telecom, as he reportedly pinned the cost of not including permission to provide similar products within new telecoms licences at $500 million.
Reporting from the launch of the Telebirr mobile money platform, media outlets including Bloomberg and Reuters cited comments from the politician on the subject.
He noted the issue of new entrants offering mobile money was “contentious” and had come at a “high cost” in terms of bid values received.
The politician added a current “block” on rival services would last for around a year, though it is unclear how this will impact new entrants when lifted.
Ethiopia is currently in the process of assessing applications for new mobile licences from two parties, one led by MTN and the other a consortium including Vodafone Group and affiliates Safaricom and Vodacom. The value of the bids have not been disclosed.
In its statement on the launch of the Telebirr, Ethio Telecom said it had 1,600 agents with plans to increase to 15,000 within a year.
It added a number of bodies including existing microfinance institutions and remittance companies were involved in its development.
Telebirr provides domestic services traditionally associated with popular mobile money platforms in neighbouring countries. The operator revealed it was working with partners on the integration of international remittance, which it aims to add in the coming weeks.
Ethio Telecom added it was created with “a major focus and greater efforts to provide financial services to low-income citizens and rural people, who do not have access to banking services”.
It hailed the launch as a “first of its kind” in Ethiopia. Limited mobile-based financial services were previously provided in the country in partnership with banks by third parties.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back