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Why Launch of M-PESA Ethiopia is set to ignite a financial revolution in one of Africa’s biggest economy


A recent report by the GSMA dubbed State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2023 underscores how mobile money has become a mainstream financial service. The report also highlights the remarkable growth and leadership of mobile money services in Kenya, particularly through the M-PESA platform, with the service recently being rolled out in Ethiopia. 

M-PESA went live in Ethiopia on August 16th and is expected to transform mobile money services, drive financial inclusion and revolutionise the digital landscape of one of Africa’s most populous countries.  

The country has had limited access to formal financial services, with a significant portion of its population excluded from these systems. This has hindered economic development and citizen’s ability to efficiently save, invest, and transact. 

The Ethiopian market offers enormous opportunities for M-PESA – the world’s largest mobile payment system, Africa’s largest Fintech, and the world’s first mobile money transfer system. Safaricom already has five million active users in the country. By leveraging on its expertise, Safaricom is set to address the financial inclusion gap in Ethiopia, transform the nation’s economy and empower its citizens.

Safaricom’s positioning as a global leader in mobile money services, demonstrated by the success of M-PESA in Kenya since its launch in 2007, positions it as a strong candidate to drive the adoption of mobile money in Ethiopia. Admittedly, M-PESA has revolutionised financial services in Kenya, empowering millions of people and enabling them to access banking services, transfer money, pay bills, and engage in e-commerce, all through their mobile phones. M-PESA propelled financial inclusion in Kenya to 84% from a low of 26.7% in 2006. Today, M-PESA boasts of having over 51 million monthly active customers in the country.

For Ethiopia market, one of the key transformative shifts that M-PESA will drive is helping customers leapfrog the traditional banking infrastructure, which in most cases is restrictive. By offering a digital alternative, which doesn’t require extensive brick-and-mortar infrastructure, M-PESA is bound to expedite financial inclusion. In particular, it will bring on board those in remote and underserved areas of the country and connect them to a formal financial system that is secure and convenient thus bolstering their social and economic resilience.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a vital part of Ethiopia’s economy and contribute to job creation and income generation for millions of people in the country. M-PESA is set to invigorate small businesses and entrepreneurs in various sectors by providing them with enhanced financial services that enable them to send and receive money, pay bills, purchase goods and services, access credit, and participate more actively in the economy. This, in turn, will unlock other business opportunities and foster economic growth.

The mobile money service will also catalyse innovation in Ethiopia. The increasing penetration of smartphones and Internet connectivity in the country opens up new opportunities for digital financial services. The GSMA report adds that the integration of mobile money with other platforms, such as e-commerce and digital banking, could unlock a new wave of economic growth and innovation. The launch of M-PESA will accelerate the broader digital economy in Ethiopia, and ensure that fintech startups and innovative financial services are able to flourish resulting in a self-sustaining ecosystem that drives economic advancement and digital inclusion. 

M-PESA has been rolled out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania. It is now bound to drive inclusive growth and prosperity in Ethiopia. The GSM report underscores that M-PESA’s cross-border growth not only solidifies its regional leadership, but also formulates a blueprint for other countries to follow in order to leverage mobile money and boost financial inclusion and economic development. 

The launch of M-PESA in Ethiopia is an exciting advancement that offers immense potential. There is no doubt that it will revolutionise the country’s mobile money services.  

The writer Dilip Pal is the CFO at Safaricom PLC

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