Ethiopia grants Safaricom M-Pesa licence

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A user sending money on M-Pesa. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Ethiopia has granted Kenya-based Safaricom a licence to launch M-Pesa in the populous nation that is largely unbanked.

The telco expects to roll out the mobile money services before the end of the year, which is set to lift the profile of service since its launch in Kenya in 2007.

“As of this morning, Safaricom Ethiopia has officially been granted the licence to operate mobile money. We look forward to launching M-Pesa in the coming weeks,” chief executive officer Peter Ndegwa said Thursday morning during an investor briefing.

Licence fee

The Safaricom-led consortium in Ethiopia has paid $150 million (Sh18.9 billion) as licence fees to the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE).

The banking sector regulator said Thursday it issued the mobile money service permit to Safaricom M-Pesa Mobile Financial Service, a new subsidiary that is the first foreign-owned unit to be granted the licence.

“We welcome this shift to the use of digital financial services so as to bring greater efficiency, safety, and transparency to the country's rapidly growing financial system,” NBE said in a statement Thursday.

Safaricom Ethiopia grew its customer numbers to three million users seven months after its entry into the country.

Mr Ndegwa said voice, messaging and data services had been rolled out in 22 cities and regions with 1,272 network sites.

It has so far employed 909 staff.

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