Ethiopia is speeding up the integration of banks and mobile wallets to tap into the local payments and international remittance markets, long flagged by the World Bank as key to TeleBirr, the country’s first mobile money platform.
TeleBirr is run by telecom operator, Ethio Telecom and has soared to more than 4 million registered users in its first month of operation.
Apart from sending and receiving money and airtime purchases, TeleBirr this month connected its wallet to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia as well as Bank of Abyssinia.
“Now, you can easily transfer money from your bank accounts to your TeleBirr accounts,” it said this month.
With digital payments now flourishing under the auspices of mobile money connectivity to finance institutions, another Ethiopian bank, Dashen has linked up with international cross border payments network, Thunes.
The new arrangement will enable receipt of remittances straight into the bank’s mobile wallet platform.
Thunes has a diverse network of remittance partners in various countries around the world who will now enable diaspora Ethiopians to send money back home into the Amole wallet linked to bank accounts held with Dashen Bank of Ethiopia.
This “cross-border payment solution will boost financial participation in Ethiopia as more people are expected to open bank and Amole wallet accounts” to receive easy overseas payments, the Thunes and Dashen Bank said in a joint statement on Thursday.
Funds received from abroad are a vital source of income for many of the country’s populace.
Asfaw Alemu, CEO of Dashen Bank, described the new Fintech arrangement as “another positive step towards our goal of transforming Ethiopia’s financial services sector and delivering innovations” in the banking sector.
The World Bank said in May that it expected “to see a wider range of digital financial services, such as online savings accounts, loans, insurance services” in the Ethiopian market after the launch of Telebirr.
“This will open up opportunities for partnership with banks and other financial services companies. This would also facilitate the use of mobile phones to receive remittances from abroad,” said a spokesperson for the World Bank.
Ethiopia is keen to reform its telecommunications industry and the licensing of new players is expected to deepen digital financial inclusion.
After selling a mobile licence in May for US$850-million to a consortium led by Kenyan operator, Safaricom, the government has now launched a tender process to sell a 40% stake in the state-owned Ethio Telecom.
“These steps to open up the telecoms sector are much delayed, but point to the potential for credit-positive economic reform if political challenges can be contained,” said Fitch ratings agency on Thursday.