Rumours about a Safaricom entry in Ethiopia, and effectively the launch of M-PESA services in the country started way back in 2019. Months later in the same year, Ethiopia was apparently in advanced talks with leading telcos in the continent. At that time, Ethiopia was reportedly planning to issue additional licenses to break up state-run Ethio Telecoms, which was perceived as a monopoly.
The pursuit to enter the lucrative Ethiopia market continued towards the end of the year as Safaricom continued to insist that it had been given a go-ahead by the Ethiopian government to either buy a stake in Ethios, or start operations as a new entity altogether. The development was announced by the then interim CEO and now Chairman Michael Joseph.
Then in April 2020, Ethiopia killed Safaricom’s M-PESA launch prospects. Ethiopia strictly limited the launch of mobile money products and services to local organizations, effectively kicking out any prospects of M-PESA.
However, the decision to limit the launch of a mobile money product internally has since been abandoned following Ethiopia’s announcement that it would allow foreign companies to take part in the exercise. This means that M-PESA has a chance to take its business there, bearing in mind that it is the leading and most robust mobile money service in Africa and beyond.
The announcement was made by the country’s PM Abiy Ahmed who said that the ground is pen for mobile money bids from May 2022. The PM also added that the Ethiopian government had forgone $500 million after it limited the launch to local companies.
Ethiopia’s 110 million population is one of the leading reasons why products such as M-PESA would make a killing there.
Still, it will be years before such developments are made because the whole exercise takes an extended period to launch and expand.