Payments systems using mobile devices are spreading rapidly in Africa. The first to offer mobile payment services in Ethiopia has been M-BIRR. Finnfund is one of the shareholders of the Technology Provider (MOSS) which initiated the M-BIRR service.
MOSS has partnered with Ethiopian microfinance institutions; they deliver the M-BIRR service allowing their customers to make deposits and withdrawals from mobile wallets, transfer money or top up prepaid mobile phone accounts.
Fewer than 10 percent of Ethiopians have a bank account. Mobile payments will improve banking services, particularly in the poor countryside.
M-BIRR’s system operates in all areas with mobile network coverage. Via agents of microfinance institutions, money can be deposited or withdrawn throughout the country.
The service makes it easy for people who have moved to the towns to send money to family members in the countryside. These remittances are an important source of income in poor villages.
M-BIRR is used by aid organisations in Ethiopia. Recipients of their grants are sent money electronically rather than in cash.
Some recipients have no mobile telephone. An application has been developed to identify these from an NFC (Near Field Communication) wristband.
The M-BIRR service started operations in early 2015. It aims to reach one million customers by the end of the year, and to spread mobile payments to shops and restaurants.
The growth of electronic payment systems is important in a country with an underdeveloped banking sector. Lower transaction costs and easier money transfers will in turn improve the prospects for other types of business in Ethiopia.
Photo: MOSS, Ethiopia