Ethiopia’s first mobile banking services set to go live

Telecoms

Addis International Bank (AdIB), a leading bank in Ethiopia, last week signed an agreement with Reewire ICT Solutions to offer Mobile banking services. AdIB becomes the first bank to launch mobile banking services in the country.

At the moment, a draft directive is being processed by the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) and will determine how the transactions will be carried out. Apart from the systems being set in place for mobile banking services by the bank and its new partner, it recently launched a centralized, online, real-time, electronic banking service.

This service will allow AdIB customers to send and receive money to both registered and unregistered users, buy airtime, and pay bills. According to the president of AdIB Hailu Alemu, these services are a major leap into serving the unbanked.

Mobile money services in Africa are touted as a solution to the unbanked population. At the moment there are more than 600 million mobile phones in Africa and any service using mobile phones will reach more people and even more personalized.

As banks in Ethiopia await the directive of the central bank, there are already service models specified in the country. The first one will allow traditional banks to serve their clients while the second requires that banks hire agents to serve on their behalf.

Banking on the second model several firms have set up shop in the country to work with banks as sole agents. They include M-Birr, a Dublin-based company which is partnering with ethio telecom to provide mobile banking services to a number of micro financing institutions such as Dedebit, Amhara, Oromia, and Addis credit and savings institutions.

The firm also hooked to its system the Omo Microfinance SC which has a whopping 3.5 million customers with 1,000 branches across the country. Bellcash Technology, a Dutch firm, has signed up banks like Wegagen, Oromia Cooperative, Bunna International, and Lion International.

The Addis International Bank is also aiming at the second model of mobile banking services. The bank serves established cooperatives like Ethiopian Airlines, EEPCo, and ethio telecom and hopes to pick agents to do the work for them says Dagnew Gesesse, business development manager at AdIB.

As the bank readies for the services, it is at the moment raising capital through sale of shares and setting up the system for mobile banking services.

Hailu told Fortune: “We can get these solutions now and get ready to launch them once the central bank gives the nod”. On the contrary, banks in East Africa launched their mobile banking services more than a year ago with Equity Bank’s Mkesho being the first on the scene.