Safaricom Ethiopia received a mobile money license a few months ago, but official operations have gone live today.

While Safaricom officially launched in Ethiopia in October 2022, the big question was when it would launch M-PESA, its popular mobile money product. The answer came three months ago when Ethiopia granted a mobile money license to Safaricom. Starting today, M-PESA will become immediately available to 4 million Ethiopians.

Stanley Njoroge, interim CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia, said, “We are excited to go live with M-PESA in Ethiopia and start providing Mobile Financial Services to our customers. M-Pesa is known to be a game-changer for financial inclusion and provides services to more than 51 million customers across seven countries in Africa offering a safe and secure platform for transactions.”

The service can be accessed via USSD code *733# or the M-PESA Safaricom Ethiopia smartphone app, available for both iOS and Android. However, according to a Safaricom Ethiopia’s X account post, the app will only be accessible to customers in the coming weeks. 

Safaricom has also not disclosed whether a dedicated M-PESA super app will complement the service. Safaricom launched a separate super app for M-PESA for Kenyan customers that bundles all M-PESA services, including credit facilities and mini apps that leverage the M-PESA payment ecosystem. Based on trends in Kenya, complementary M-PESA products in Ethiopia will eventually be replicated in the market, but that can only happen after the service successfully scales.

Paul Kavavu, Interim General Manager of Safaricom M-PESA Mobile Financial Services PLC, said, “M-Pesa is Africa’s most successful mobile money service and the region’s largest fintech platform both for the banked and unbanked due to its safety and convenience. It also provides financial services to millions of people who have mobile phones, but do not have bank accounts, or only have limited access to banking services. In Kenya, it has enabled the growth of financial inclusion that over 90% of the adult population has access to mobile banking. We look forward to replicating this success in Ethiopia and excited to go live with the services. In the coming months we will continue to add more functions and work with all Ethiopians to jointly realize the transformative power of M-PESA.”

M-PESA will compete with Ethio Telecom’s Telebirr, which has been in operation since 2021. Telebirr has gained popularity in Ethiopia’s finance sector, serving 34.3 million customers and with transactions valued at $12.3 billion. It provides key digital financial services, including Telebirr Sanduq and Endekise. These services have extended microloans adding up to $74.4 million, 2.4 million customers, and facilitated over $3.6 billion in micro-savings. Alongside the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Telebirr plans to boost its offerings, similar to M-PESA, by introducing loan and savings products. Its network includes 615 service centers, 136 master agents, and 107,300 agents.

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox