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Lack of licensing clarity tempers Ethiopian mobile money optimism

Experienced mobile money market participants have given a cautious welcome to Ethiopia’s plans to liberalize its telecommunications market, but warn that the emergence of new transaction providers is far from certain.


Ethiopia is one of the three sleeping giants of the mobile money industry, according to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money from 2018, which points to the country’s enormous potential for uptake if it has the right social and regulatory environment.

A PayNXT360 report in August 2019 says that Ethiopia is also one of the fastest growing markets for mobile payments in Africa. The report forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 21% in mobile payment volumes between 2020 and 2025. By then, the market is expected to be worth $9.5 billion.

To help the country get there, the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) issued a new directive at the end of March – Licensing and Authorization of Payment Instrument Issuers Directive No. ONPS/01/2020 – which allows entities other than licensed financial institutions to apply for licences to issue payment instruments. 

Allowing domestically owned entities to provide mobile money services is a welcome development that will drive digital finance in a cash-oriented society - Thierry Artaud, Moss ICT Consultancy

This development is widely seen to be Ethiopia opening the door to new entrants into mobile money services, although the reality is slightly more complicated.

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