Safaricom to launch M-Pesa services in Ethiopia

Safaricom officially started its operations in Ethiopia on Thursday, with the Horn State granting the Kenyan telco the nod to also launch M-Pesa services in the country, marking the first actual step in the expansion of its wings into the country with a population more than double that of Kenya.

The firm switched on its mobile telecommunications network and services in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, targeting to reach about 30 million people by April 2023.

President William Ruto flew to Ethiopia to witness the historic launch together with his host, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This came after Safaricom was granted a nationwide full-service Unified Telecommunications Service Licence in the neighbouring country, to compete with Ethiopia’s state-owned Ethio Telecom.

“This is the culmination of a fruitful convergence between the local and the global. It is a key milestone in our countries’ shared journey of progress,” said President Ruto. He commended Dr Ahmed for backing “this monumental game-changer” in Ethiopia.

“This is an emphatic signal that the African unity of our time has come of age, a continent united by opportunity, and a Pan-Africanism driven by trade,” Dr Ruto said. Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company’s aim was to provide sustainable and quality mobile network to Ethiopians.

“We have deepened digital and financial inclusion in Kenya by connecting people to people, people to opportunities and people to information. We look forward to positively impacting the people of Ethiopia with a sustainable and quality mobile network that will be a vital launch pad for nationwide digital telecommunications services to over 118 million Ethiopians,” Mr Ndegwa said. With the launch, Safaricom immediately provided 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services to 11 cities including Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city.

Safaricom Ethiopia is owned by a consortium comprising Vodafone Group; Safaricom PLC; Vodacom Group; Sumitomo Corporation (an international trading and business investment company) and British International Investment.

“The company plans to launch services in a total of 25 cities by April 2023 to meet the 25 per cent population coverage obligation in its licence,” the telco said. It also announced that Safaricom Ethiopia has infrastructure sharing and interconnection agreements in place with Ethio Telecom. Corporate leaders lauded the launch, exuding confidence that Safaricom Ethiopia would boost the country’s economy through digital transformation.

Tech-for-good

“Ubiquitous network connectivity will positively transform the lives of Ethiopians throughout the country, notably by making various tech-for-good solutions and services available in health, education, manufacturing, agriculture and digital finance,” said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.

“With the expansion of mobile phone use and the economic and human resource development, we will transform lives for a digital future, in line with the Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy,” said Toshikazu Nambu, Representative Director, Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, Sumitomo Corporation. Earlier, Dr Ruto held talks with his host at his office in Addis Ababa.

The President said Kenya supports the ongoing African Union-led peace efforts in Ethiopia led by former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Insecurity and violence are threats to sustainable development. We must always work towards living peacefully,” noted Dr Ruto.

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