Kenyatta urges Ethiopia to reconsider stance on mobile money services
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged Ethiopia to open up its telecommunications industry to private mobile money business investors.
Ethiopia recently awarded a telecommunications services licence to the Global partnership for Ethiopia consortium led by Kenya's Safaricom, Vodafone, UK’s CDC Group and Japan's Sumitomo.
However, foreign operators are currently not allowed to provide mobile financial services in the country.
Only Ethio Telecom, through its Telebirr mobile money service, is allowed to provide mobile financial services to subscribers.
The country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last month that foreign operators will only be allowed to provide mobile financial services next year (2022), a move the World Bank said was not good for the development of the sector and that it would hinder Ethio Telecom’s own ambition to attract a strategic equity partner from abroad.
The Ethiopian government plans to sell 45% stake in Ethio Telecom (with over 53 million customers) to a foreign operator in a bid to make the company more competitive.
During a state visit to Ethiopia this week, Kenyatta said the Ethiopian government should quickly allow foreign operators to provide mobile financial services in order to promote competition.
Kenyatta said Kenya has seen the great gains and opportunities unleashed by Safaricom across the entirety of socio-economic landscape and that Ethiopia now stands at the cusp of making even greater strides in Safaricom’s areas of strength, which includes digital presence, mobile money, telephony, data and fibre connectivity and business solutions.
He said the consortium plans to invest more than US$8-billion in the country over the next 10 years, the largest single investment that Ethiopia has attracted to date.
Kenyatta said, “Having witnessed first-hand in Kenya what mobile financial services can do in the transformation of the lives of citizens and a country’s economy, I’m hopeful that your government will consider, in the near future, opening up the opportunity for mobile money in Ethiopia. This move will be particularly timely as it will offer millions of Ethiopians avenues for financial inclusion.”