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A draft directive aimed at opening up Ethiopia’s mobile money market for foreign operators proposes a license fee of $150 million.

Signed by Solomon Damtew, the Payment and Settlement System Director at the National Bank of Ethiopia, the draft was made public on February 14, 2023.

The draft directive, which is intended to replace the 2020 directive that opened the sector to non-financial players and led to the birth of Telebirr, is subject to public consultation, and a consultative meeting on the draft directive is scheduled for February 21, 2023.

Akofada (DFS Ethiopia)

The new bill follows the amendment of the National Payment System Proclamation, which was revised in the same spirit in December 2022.

The directive refers to the $150 million fee as an investment protection fee, which it defines as the amount paid by foreign nationals who invest in businesses exclusively reserved for domestic investors or the government

The ratification paves the way for the government to respond to Safaricom Telecom Ethiopia’s pending applications to launch the M-Pesa mobile money services in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged to open the fintech sector to global players within a year during the launch of Telebirr in May 2021. Telebirr and Kacha are the two mobile money operators in Ethiopia, and Telebirr has provided micro-credit totaling 1.17 billion birr as of the end of 2022.

The new directive also raises the account limits set on digital wallets. Level 1 accounts are subject to a maximum daily electronic account balance of 10,000 bir and an aggregate daily transaction limit of 20,000 birr. Level 2 accounts have a maximum electronic balance of 100,000 birr and an aggregate daily transaction limit of 300,000 birr.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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