Ethiopia liberalises mobile money market

The Government of Ethiopia has published regulations for licensing of mobile money services. Ethiopia  has since 2013 been served by one mobile money service, M-Birr, which is a partnership of five financial institutions. Liberalisation of mobile money services is  part of economic reforms under the new administration of prime minister Abiy Ahmed, under which plans are also underway for privatisation of national telecommunications company Ethiotel.  

Under the new regulations, applicants for a mobile money licence will need to deposit 50 million Ethiopian Birr( USD 1.6 million) in a government bank account. Prospective companies are required to have at least 10 shareholders with none holding more than 20% shareholding, unless they are a government entity. Analysts say that the regulations have effectively blocked Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom from entry into the Ethiopian market. Safaricom, which operates mobile money service Mpesa  expressed interest in expanding into Ethiopia. Other companies that were also interested include Vodacom, MTN, Orange, Airtel and Etisalat.