Ethiopia’s central bank issued regulations allowing non-banks to offer basic financial services, potentially opening the door for companies mulling a play in its wireless market to add mobile money to their portfolios.

The guidelines are effective today (1 April) and allow for non-financial services companies to offer a number of services core to standard mobile money platforms, with an additional option to collaborate with a traditional bank on more advanced services.

It has also imposed ownership guidelines on new players, which could mean operators need to offer services through, or in partnership with, local companies.

Under a standard licence, providers will be able to offer: cash-in and -out; domestic remittances; bill payments; retail payments; over the counter transactions; and inward international remittances.

Among the requirements are a minimum capital deposit of ETB50 million ($1.5 million), central bank approval of key product executives, a five year business plan, geographical rollout schedule and policies around security.

New services could be subject to a three-month pilot phase assessed by authorities.

National Bank of Ethiopia also set out transaction and balance limits reflective of the level of know-your-customer data collected on account holders.

Current mobile money services in the market are provided by large banks and micro-finance companies.

In its 2018 State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money, the GSMA pointed to Ethiopia as one of the three sleeping giants of the industry with potential for huge uptake given the right social and regulatory environment.

The move comes as Ethiopia prepares to open-up its telecoms industry, potentially taking outside investment in incumbent Ethio Telecom and issuing licences to two new entrants.

Companies indicating an interest in making a move include MTN Group, Orange and Vodacom Group.