Safaricom has been granted the license to launch its mobile money service, M-Pesa, in Ethiopia.
The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) issued a license to a new subsidiary, Safaricom M-Pesa Mobile Financial Service, allowing Safaricom to expand its services beyond Kenya where it was first launched in 2007.
The launch is expected to take place in a few weeks time.
In a statement released on Thursday, May 11, Ethiopia's National Bank said that the issuance of the mobile money license reflects the East African country's ongoing objective of fostering financial innovation and inclusion in the Ethiopian market.
"With NBE support, the menu of digital finance offerings, including mobile banking, mobile wallets, internet banking, and card banking, has expanded rapidly in recent years, showing the strong underlying public demand for the use of such services," NBE said in a statement.
"We welcome this shift to the use of digital financial services so as to bring greater efficiency, safety, and transparency to the country's rapidly growing financial system."
Safaricom Ethiopia has already established its presence in the country by offering voice, messaging, and data services in 22 cities and regions.
With 1,272 network sites, the company has managed to attract three million users in just seven months, demonstrating strong demand for telecom services in Ethiopia.
As part of the license agreement, Safaricom Ethiopia has paid $150 million (Sh20.5 billion) in fees to the NBE, making it the first foreign-owned unit to receive such a permit in the country.
Welcoming the move, Safaricom Chief Executive Peter Ndegwa said, "As of this morning, Safaricom Ethiopia has officially been granted the license to operate mobile money. We look forward to launching M-Pesa in the coming weeks."