Mobile money started to make its way in Ethiopia allowing banks and micro finance institutions to provide customers to opportunity to make and receive payments through mobile devices. Mobile money providers operate as agents taking deposits and handing out cash through the mobile system.
Kifiya Financial Technology Plc, a local company created access to financial and non-financial services making transactions simple and accessible. Netherlands-based BelCash is offering a service called helloCash, while MOSS ICT, owned by an Ireland-based company, is rolling out M-Birr. These institutions are offering services to customers in compliance with national bank of Ethiopia policy that bars foreign companies and banks from investing in the financial sector.
The service depends on the network of the sole state-owned telecom company Ethio Telecom Corporation for data storage and transaction security. The system works charging a fee for each transaction made. According to industry research findings, the mobile growth and access to cell phones in the developing world drove investors’ attention to Africa. In the first quarter of 2015, there were over 900 million mobile subscribers. The number of mobile lines in service is projected to surpass the global population with markets in developing countries continuing to drive growth in mobile subscriptions for the foreseeable future.
Currently, there are 2 million ATM users in Ethiopia although bank branches numbering over 2,200 still retain large number of users who opt to make transactions in person. In spite of this, mobile and card payments are slowly making their way with a growing number of users.
Although Ethiopia has one of the largest economies in Africa, it lags behind in terms of offering mobile money services in comparison to its East African. More than half of Kenya’s population use mobile money. Safaricom, a part of Britain’s Vodafone, was the pioneered mobile money in Kenya launching its service back in 2007 with the M-Pesa launch. It now serves approximately 19.2 million clients through over 45,000 agent outlets. M-Pesa is nearly ubiquitous in the daily lives of Kenyans due to a range of services that include money deposit and withdrawals, remittance delivery, bill payments and micro credit provision. The service provider has undergone a massive growth: in 2013 only, a staggering 43 % of Kenya’s GDP flowed through M-Pesa with over 237 million transactions while 35% of Kenyan hotel booking payments for Jovago were made through mobile transactions. The same trend is developing in Ethiopia as it portrays a large potential.
Experts say that the overall economic growth triggers and drives adoption of mobile money while the increased use of mobile devices promotes the use of mobile money. People are able to open an account, make and receive payments from customers and members of the service suppliers. The business account also includes payments for bills, buying goods and services at retail stores and service outlets such as the restaurants, supermarkets, and shops. Businesses can also make bulk payments such as payroll, dividend disbursement and other transactions. The non cash transaction does not require one to install apps, the system simply works by receiving messages controlling the account through the mobile device.