Government to issue permits as it liberalizes telecoms sector
MTN, Vodacom, Orange keen on entering Ethiopian market
Ethiopia will allow non-financial institutions to offer mobile-money services, effectively opening up the lucrative business to telecommunication companies including the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom.
The central bank directive comes amid plans to liberalize the telecommunications industry by offering two new licenses and selling a stake in Ethio Telecom. MTN Group Ltd., Vodacom Group Ltd. and Orange SA have expressed an interest in entering the nation with a population of more than 105 million people.
Currently, only banks and micro-finance companies are allowed to offer mobile-money services.
License requirements include minimum capital of 50 million birr ($1.5 million), ownership by Ethiopian nationals or people of Ethiopian origin and a minimum of 10 shareholders, the National Bank of Ethiopia said in a statement on its website. The directive, effective April 1, allows maximum account balances of 30,000 birr and transaction limits of 8,000 birr daily and 60,000 birr monthly.
Companies that receive the mobile-money permits can also provide saving, credit, insurance and pension products. State-owned enterprises can also apply for permits, the central bank said.
Upgrading the Horn of Africa nation’s financial system is part of a raft of economic reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government aimed at opening the economy to more foreign investment.