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NBE to Grant Safaricom Ethiopia a License for Mobile Money Service within weeks

ADDIS ABABA – The National Bank of Ethiopia says it will soon grant telecom services provider Safaricom Ethiopia Plc a license to roll out mobile financial services in the country.

The central bank is currently in talks with Safaricom Ethiopia over a new payment system operator license.

The negotiations comes after Ethiopian lawmakers enacted a revised National Payment System Proclamation last December, allowing foreign companies to engage in payment system operations.

Speaking to broadcaster FBC on Monday, Central Bank Governor Mamo Mihretu notes that the NBE is taking steps to modernize Ethiopia’s payment system in a bid to increase access to financial services in the country.

One of these steps, he says, is allowing more fintechs to enter the payment system operation business.

So far, eight institutions including state-owned Ethio Telecom’s Telebirr have been licensed to provide mobile money service in Ethiopia where 31 banks, and 44 Microfinance Institutions are currently operating.

According to Mamo, Telebirr has made a significant contribution in expanding access to financial services to the public since its launch less that two years ago.

Safaricom is now in the final stages of negotiations with the central bank to get a green light in its bid to launch mobile money service.

“I believe that the national bank will issue a new license for Safaricom in the coming two or three weeks,” centeral Bank Govornor Mamo told FBC.

The license will make Safaricom Ethiopia the first foreign-owned company to start mobile money services in the country.

The telco entered the Ethiopian telecom market last yeat after its owner – a consortium led by Safaricom Kenya – secured the first private telecom services license, which does not have a permit for mobile financial services.

The telco plans to roll out its M-Pesa, a popular mobile money service in neighboring Kenya, next year, according to reports.

It will face fierce competition from Ethio Telecom’s TeleBirr which acquired 30 million users since its launch in May 2021, showing the potential of the market.

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