ADDIS ABABA, April 2 (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s central bank will allow locally-owned non-financial institutions to start offering mobile money services as it seeks to boost non-cash payments in the country, it said.
The Horn-of-Africa nation is in the midst of massive economic reforms led by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, including the privatisation of state-owned telecommunications monopoly Ethio Telecom.
The new directive would allow Ethio Telecom, as an Ethiopian-owned company, to move into mobile money. Any foreign-owned companies, however, would remain locked out, according to the new regulations that were published on Wednesday.
Foreign telecom operators, including Kenya’s Safaricom and South Africa’s MTN, have expressed interest in bidding for telecoms licenses in Africa’s second most populous country.
But without further changes to the regulations, they will remain unable to offer mobile financial services business, analysts said.
“This directive effectively excludes foreign fin-tech and telecom companies from reaping the business benefits,” Bahakal Abate, a corporate lawyer in Addis Ababa, told Reuters.
In February, Ethiopia delayed the award of two telecoms licences to multinational companies. The licences would end the state monopoly and open up one of the world’s last major closed telecoms markets. (Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw, Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
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