News / Africa

Ethiopia to Introduce Mobile Banking

Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.
x
Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.
Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.
Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking. With the booming economy and a population of 80 million this country could be the next gold mine for mobile banking companies.
 
Mobile banking has proved to be a lucrative venture in the developing world, where large parts of the population belong to the so-called "unbanked."  In Africa, only Ethiopia and Zimbabwe do not provide mobile money services.  That will change soon for Ethiopia.
 
BelCash and M-Birr are mobile banking technology providers that have been in Ethiopia for the last three years to set up mobile banking and mobile money services.  

Dutch company BelCash is focused on mobile banking, working in partnership with banks to provide easier access to finance through bank accounts. Ireland-based M-Birr is a mobile money service that works with micro finance institutions where no registration at a bank is needed.
 
The companies will face several challenges in Ethiopia. Half of the population is said to be illiterate, and the telecom coverage in the country is far from perfect. The pressure on the telecom network will increase as the number of Ethiopians owning a mobile phone increases.

In the last four years, the number grew from three million to 17 million users. And Ethiopia’s telecom provider, Ethio Telecom, expects that number to grow to 40 million in the next three years.
 
BelCash founder Vince Diop does not believe a limited network or high illiteracy rate will be a barrier for introducing mobile banking.

“We have multiple channels that people can use, like sms, ivr, so that if one channel is not working properly than still they have other options,” Diop said.

The government regulates Ethiopia’s telecommunications market, meaning that there is only one telecom provider and others are not allowed. Both BelCash and M-birr are strictly technology providers. M-Birr General Manager Thierry Artaud sees the regulated market as a benefit.

"If you look at your neighbors, Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, they all have multiple mobile operators and they all have mobile money services and even multiple mobile money services," said Artaud. "If the country was deregulated, the big operators like Vodafone, MTN would come to Ethiopia and launch a mobile money service. Because its not deregulated we are protected."
 
Ethiopia has looked at other developing countries to learn from their experiences with mobile banking. The National Bank of Ethiopia visited Kenya, Pakistan and Brazil.
 
Frezer Ayalew is the director of micro-finance supervision of the National Bank of Ethiopia. He says mobile banking services could be a positive development for Ethiopia.

“Financial service accessibility is very necessary in order to smoothen consumption, built household assets. And it’s critical for people to have access to finance," said Ayalew. "For the economy it has great contribution in terms of mobilizing domestic savings with these services.”
 
Ethiopia also strongly regulates its financial institutions. The National Bank of Ethiopia just finished a draft directive on how mobile banking services should be regulated as more companies have shown interest in starting mobile banking services.
 
Frezer says the directive is needed to face possible challenges.

"The overall purpose of the directive is to make sure that the financial institutions are providing the service in a prudent and safe manner so that the stability of financial system is maintained," said Frezer.
 
Artaud says that until the directive has been finalized, M-Birr is allowed to start a pilot.

“People will be able to start registering for real, with real money and transferring money throughout the country," said Artaud. "The only limitation will be where the branches are, because we are talking about roughly thirty points of sales for the pilot.”
 
The National Bank of Ethiopia expects that the directive will be approved in the coming months.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs