Safaricom’s Ethiopian unit moved a step closer to launching mobile money service m-Pesa after it was awarded a licence from authorities, with the country’s central bank citing strong public demand for digital finance offerings.

In a statement, the National Bank of Ethiopia noted Safaricom is the first non-domestic investor in the country to receive a mobile money licence.

It explained the move builds on an objective to foster “financial innovation and inclusion in the Ethiopian market” by promoting digital financial services.

The bank added digital financial services will bring “greater efficiency, safety and transparency to the country’s rapidly growing financial system”.

In its own statement, Safricom branded m-Pesa as the largest mobile money service in Africa, with operations spanning nine countries.

CEO Peter Ndegwa said Safaricom plans to launch the service in Ethiopia “in the next few months”.

Safaricom entered the Ethiopian market in 2022 and stated it has since signed up 3 million customers, with services spanning 22 cities.