Ethio Telecom, the largest sole mobile operator in Ethiopia, has launched Telebirr – a mobile money service that allows users to send and receive money, as well as deposit and withdraw cash.
The mobile money service is similar to M-PESA, the Kenyan-based mobile money service, and is expected to offer an alternative to the current inefficient banking system.
Telebirr is the first mobile financial service in Ethiopia and this will remain in effect for at least one year due to existing law which barrs foreign operators from offering a similar service for that period of time.
According to the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, the government has foregone $500 million from two foreign bidders looking to roll out mobile financial services in the country. He said mobile financial services will be opened up to competition after one year.
Below are some stats about Ethio Telecom:
- 50.7 million subscribers
- $604 million revenue in H2, 2020
- 21 milion users expected to use Telebirr in the first year of operations
- 33 million people expected to use Telebirr in the next 5 years
The launch of the new mobile money service comes at a time when Ethiopia is opening up its mobile and telecommunications space to foreigners with some regional players, including Safaricom, the owner of the M-PESA mobile service, expressing interest in the space.
The new service, Telebirr, marks a shift for Ethiopia, a country with a population of about 115 million that is served by an inefficient banking system of 19 commercial banks.
Apart from selling a 45% stake in Ethio Telecom, ending one of the world’s last closed telecoms markets, the government is looking more broadly to open up Ethiopia’s economy.
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