Safaricom is set to launch M-Pesa to rival Ethio Telecom’s Telebirr, boosting the Ethiopian economy up to two mobile money platforms.
Ethiopia's finance minister Ahmed Shide told The Standard: "A deal has been reached between the government of Ethiopia and Safaricom to grant a license for mobile money service to Safaricom.”
The news followed Safaricom officially launching its 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services in 11 cities last week. The operator aims to launch services in 25 cities by April next year and fulfil its licence obligation to spread coverage to 25% of the population.
As of September, Ethio Telecom reported over 23.9 million total subscribers on its Telebirr service, served by over 82,000 agents and a network of 22,000 merchants. This leaves plenty of space for Safaricom to grow its own base in the formerly closed-off telecoms market of Ethiopia.
Telebirr has a total transaction value of ETB43.8 billion (US$823m) since launching in April last year.
Ethiopia has a population of over 100 million and was seen by operators as one of the very few last untapped opportunities for expansion in pursuit of growth.