Telebirr, a mobile payment and digital wallet service launched by Ethiopia’s state-owned operator Ethio Telecom in May 2021, has reached over 17.6 million subscribers with a cumulative transaction value of 12.58 billion birr (about $245.2 million) to date.
According to the Ethiopian Monitor news service, as well as reporting that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions have taken place through the payment platform, Ethio Telecom has claimed that financial transfers worth some $528,400 have been made from 34 countries via Telebirr in cooperation with eight international remittance partners.
As for local agents, the Ethiopian Monitor says that the service has engaged more than 64,000 agents and over 16,000 merchants so far. Money transfer is now possible in partnership with 12 commercial banks, while over 52 institutions, including Ethiopian Airlines, are said to have integrated their services with Telebirr.
Ethio Telecom has also claimed that this figure is rising: it says that 20 more public and private companies plan to join to the payment system and launch services soon.
The question now is where this growth leaves Safaricom Ethiopia, which was due to launch on 9 April, but has apparently not yet done so. The popular M-Pesa mobile payment service that will presumably be part of the Safaricom Ethiopia offering will provide useful competition but will have a lot of catching up to do.
Another problem, as we reported in January, is that Ethiopia has put new licenses on hold for now, making this market, effectively, a duopoly for both telecoms and mobile money services – or, more accurately, a monopoly until Safaricom is ready to compete.