It was pretty much a formality, but now it’s been confirmed. Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia has been officially granted a license to operate mobile money services in Ethiopia. The licence comes seven months after the commercial launch of its mobile communications services in the country.
The company says its M-Pesa service will be launched and rolled out over the next few months. To date, M-Pesa empowers over 30 million customers to transact, save or borrow money through their mobile phone. It can also reasonably take credit for having catalysed financial inclusion in Kenya to 84% from a low of 26.7% in 2006 (according to the 2021 FinAccess Survey). M-Pesa generated over KES 117.2 billion (US$886 million) in revenue in the 2023 financial year.
The commercial launch of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia took place in October 2022. The company now has more than 3 million customers and a distributor network of over 114 outlets. It has delivered a network in 22 cities and regions with close to 1,300 network sites and over 900 staff, 81% of whom are Ethiopians.
Of course Ethiopia's state-owned operator is still doing well. In January Ethio Telecom reported a 20% rise in half-year revenue to 33.8 billion birr (US$633 million). Subscribers to its mobile phone-based financial service Telebirr, launched in May 2021, have now passed 30 million out of at least 70 million total subscribers.
And Ethio Telecom is keeping up the pressure on its new rival. It recently partnered with four local private firms to start new digital entertainment services for its customers. Four entertainment apps, offering video, music streaming, and mobile game services, have been launched via the Telebirr digital payment system.
However, with M-Pesa now officially on its way, competition really does look like hotting up very soon.