M-PESA Goes to Ethiopia to Compete with Ethio Telecom’s Telebirr


Safaricom Ethiopia is now officially open, following an event that was attended by Kenya’s President William Ruto, among others including Safaricom Kenya CEO Peter Ndegwa. The telco is now live in Addis, among other 10 cities in the country whose population is higher than 115 million people.

The launch means that there are more than 200K customers who can access Safaricom services, and many more will be able to do so by April 2023 when the telco will avail its network to 25 cities.

The big question has been, however, has been whether Safaricom’s most lucrative product, M-PESA, will be available there, and the answer is yes.

Back 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 was abandoned following Ethiopia’s announcement that it would allow foreign companies to take part in the exercise.

The development also meant that M-PESA had 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.

M-PESA, however, will not be the sole product in Ethiopia because state-owned Ethio Telecom has a similar service named Telebirr, which was launched in Q2. It has since attracted some popularity, with more than 4 million subscribers subscribing to it a few days after launch.

Safaricom Ethiopia has since invested in network and building infrastructure, including mobile radio towers national transmission networks and wholesale agreements for international connectivity.

It has invested USD 1 billion so far. The amount includes license fees.

It also imported equipment worth over USD 300 million.

The firm has developed core network, IT, products, call centres, and services.

It further signed infrastructure sharing and interconnect agreements with Ethio Telecom.

Safaricom Ethiopia has onboarded 29 distributors across the region.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]