Ethio Telecom launches TeleBirr mobile money service
Ethio Telecom has announced the roll out of a mobile money service TeleBirr, available to its subscribers from May 2021.
The telco has made the move to consolidate its market dominance before the entry of new operators into the country.
The TeleBirr mobile money service will allow customers to send, receive and store money using their mobile phones. Customers will be able to pay for goods, services and utility bills, as well as receive money from people in the diaspora, access loans and link bank accounts to TeleBirr wallet.
The telco secured approval by the Council of Ministers to engage in digital financial services.
It started the process to launch digital financial services over a year ago after submitting a proposal to the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) which approved the application.
Ethio Telecom CEO Frehiwot Tamiru said, “We will deliver the project in a very short period of time.”
Commenting on the development, the World Bank said Ethio Telecom has the most to gain from the expansion of the digital economy, but warned that attempts by the government to shelter the company from competition in the provision of digital financial services is not good for the market.
Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Sudan said the Ethiopian government has made policy pronouncements that seek to restrict the operation of digital financial services to Ethiopian firms and nationals only.
“But this may slow down innovation and investment is the market and may actually hinder Ethio Telecom’s own ambitions to attract strategic investment partner from abroad. A better strategy would be to encourage Ethio Telecom to compete on equal terms with the new market entrants in providing mobile money services without ownership restrictions,” said Dione.
Currently, Ethio Telecom has over 53 million mobile phone customers.