As would-be rival Safaricom Ethiopia gets ready to start operations, Ethiopian incumbent operator Ethio Telecom is expanding the scope of its mobile money service telebirr. According to the Ethiopian Herald news service the latest offering is a drivers' traffic penalty payment platform.
Will paying traffic penalties through telebirr replace the paper-based payment system? Well it is reported that over 1,500 traffic police officers have so far been trained by Ethio Telecom so that, in theory at least, traffic police can issue traffic penalty charges using a short number and by sending an SMS.
However, there is still an onus on drivers who want to sort out a traffic penalty payment via telebirr to inform traffic police of their preference before the police issue a receipt.
This system, it is hoped, will speed up payment time and convenience compared to the previous approach whereby penalty payment was made only through the country’s commercial banks. Four private banks have joined the system: Awash, Abyssinia, Dashen and Cooperative Bank of Oromia.
There was even a launch ceremony last week promoting the Settle Your Penalty service. The Herald says that the service is also underpinned by a memorandum of understanding made among the main stakeholders, Ethio Telecom, Addis Ababa Traffic Management Agency and Addis Ababa Police Commission.
Since its launch telebirr has stolen a march on would-be rivals, not least due to the lack of an expected third operator. Safaricom Ethiopia and some localised version of M-Pesa is, however, expected to arrive soon; in fact about two weeks ago Safaricom unveiled its first data centre in Ethiopia ahead of an expected full-scale commercial launch in April.