M-PESA Mobile Money Service Gets Licensed to Operate in Ethiopia – Africa’s Second Most Populous Nation

M-PESA is expected to bring stiff competition to Ethiopia's sole mobile money operator, Telebirr, which was only launched in May 2021.

Safaricom Ethiopia has officially ‘switched on’ its network and services in Africa’s second most populous nation, Ethiopia, following a launch ceremony in October 2022.

The ceremony was graced by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and Kenyan President, William Ruto, who flew in for the occasion. Also attended were senior Safaricom and Vodacom executives, including Safaricom CEO, Peter Ndegwa, and Vodacom Group CEO, Shameel Josuub.

The highlight of the day was the announcement that Ethiopia was also granting the telecommunications provider a license to introduce its successful mobile money service, M-PESA, to the 115 million populace.


M-PESA is expected to bring stiff competition to Ethiopia’s sole mobile money operator, Telebirr, which was only launched in May 2021. Similar to Safaricom, Telebirr is owned by telecommunications provider, Ethio Telcom, the state-owned telco which had been the sole operator before Safaricom’s arrival in July 2021.

Safaricom said it had completed successful customer network pilots in 10 cities across Ethiopia secured the seoond telco license in Ethiopia after paying $850 million, part of an investment via a consortium comprising: 

  • Safaricom PLC
  • Vodafone Group
  • Vodacom Group
  • Sumitomo Corporation
  • British International Investment (formerly known as CDC Group)

Africa’s largest telco, MTN, had offered $600 million which was deemed too low by Ethiopian officials, a Reuters report has said.

The Safaricom network in Ethiopia is currently available in following regions in Ethiopia:

  • Dire Dawa
  • Harar
  • Haramaya
  • Adama
  • Bahir Dar
  • Bishoftu
  • Mojo
  • Debre Birhan
  • Awoday
  • Gondar, and
  • Addis Ababa

Safaricom says the national network rollout will continue and expected to reach 14 additional cities by April 2023.

According to Anwar Soussa, CEO, Safaricom Ethiopia:

Building on the phased city-by-city customer pilots, we continue to invest in providing network and services to further cities and parts of the country in accordance with the obligations of our Unified Telecommunications Services License. – CEO, Safaricom Ethiopia

For people in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, Safaricom said it is offering 4G data, voice, and SMS services between Safaricom Ethiopia and Ethio Telecom customers, international calls worldwide, and affordable phones for purchase.



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