Irish firm bids to improve banking services in Ethiopia

by Zelalem

Ethiopian banks and microfinance firms are launching mobile money services, helping reach swathes of the population that now have little access to branches or services.

The launch of the services, which allow customers to make payments or receive money via a mobile that is linked to a bank account, mirrors technology used in other African nations that has drawn millions of people into the financial system.

And one of the companies driving the new services in a country with a population of 96 million is Moss ICT, a company effectively owned by Ireland-based mobile software group M-Birr. It provides a mobile wallet account accessed from your phone.

M-Birr is owned by software entrepreneur James Noctor, along with the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and a company called Key to France.

Mr Noctor sits as a director alongside Finn Mikko Kuuskoski and Thierry Artaud, who is based in north Dublin.

Apart from Moss ICT, Netherlands-based BelCash, is offering a technology called helloCash.

In both cases, Ethiopian banks and institutions will offer the service to customers and hold the cash deposited, in line with government policy that bars foreign firms or banks from investing in the financial sector or the telecoms industry.

Finance firms

The central bank approved the roll out for M-Birr, which will be offered by five micro finance firms, in December. It already has 5,000 to 6,000 users and expects to add 13,000 by the end of this month.

Bankers say Ethiopia has no more than 1,500 ATM cash machines, while there was just over 2,200 bank branches as of June, or one for every 40,000 people, the central bank says.

Only one in 10 people have a bank account.

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