Ethiopia’s government has made advances to Kenyan telecom firm Safaricom seeking assistance on ways it can shape up its mobile money and telephony market.
As part of his two-day official visit to where he called on select companies from his country “to gain a first-hand perspective on the operations of leading companies”, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held talks with senior management of Safaricom over the prospects of expanding the M-Pesa mobile money transfer service to his country.
Desalegn said his country “is looking to countries such as Kenya, Brazil and Pakistan” for guidance on the mobile money transfer service.
With an estimated population of 91 million people, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest nation and is seen as the next frontier for mobile financial services, according to the Telecompaper.
The country has, however, been slow in introducing mobile financial services, unlike its neighbour Kenya where mobile money transfer services have proved a booming business.
Safaricom uses agents countrywide for its M-Pesa service, now hailed as the “Kenyan technology success story” and testimony to the enormity of the East African country’s technology scene.
M-Pesa enables users to make four transactions including transfer of money from one person to another, transfer of money from person to a business, withdrawal of cash at designated outlets by use of agents and receipt or repayment of microfinance loans.
M-Pesa was launched in 2007 and within its first seven months had close to 1 million users. The mobile money transfer service currently has more than 14.6 million registered users, according to Safaricom.
Desalegn said: “We would like learn and see greater partnerships between Safaricom and Ethiopia as we work to grow our ICT sector.”
Meanwhile, a number of Kenyan firms including Safaricom, Equity Bank and Brookside have expressed interest in investing in Ethiopia after Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Dessalegn on Wednesday signed an agreement intended to open borders and boost trade between the two countries.
“We need to move our teamwork from just political interests and regional security to include improving inter-country trade to benefit the over 130 million people living in both countries,” Mr Hailemariam said.