Safaricom becomes the first foreign firm to get such a permit in the largely unbanked nation

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Ethiopia has issued Kenya’s telecom giant Safaricom a license to operate mobile money services, the first foreign firm to get such a permit in the populous nation.

Safaricom launched in August last year its operations in Ethiopia, which for years had been one of the largest closed market in the African continent.

The state-owned Ethio telecom had been the sole provider of telecom and mobile money services for a country of over 110 million people.

But Addis Ababa opened its market in 2021 for international bidders, granting a consortium led by Safaricom a license to operate in the country.

On Thursday, the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) said in a statement that the issuing of the mobile money license reflected its ongoing objectives of “fostering financial innovation and inclusion in the Ethiopian market”.

Safaricom chief executive Peter Ndegwa said the company would roll out mobile financial services in the country before the end of this year. Ethiopia has seen a significant growth of mobile money services in recent months.

Two weeks ago, the authorities introduced a move that makes mobile money the sole means of payment at fuel stations and government financial institutions in a bid to nudge people towards digital payments.


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