Ethiopian digital remittance platforms, which were in limbo following a series of suspensions, are back in business with new apps joining the scene.
As a result, Ethiopians abroad can once again use locally developed platforms MamaPays and CashGo, as well as the newly launched Ethio Direct to send money to Ethiopia and pay bills instantly and cheaply.
Before the interruption, the apps provided a convenient solution for remittances and bill payments through a single platform, using international payment gateways and credit/debit cards, which was also the source of the controversy.
The Bank that saw the apps providing services—they did not have a permit—initially ordered them to cease their operations. After subsequent negotiations in June 2022, the regulator lifted its suspension.
However, soon after, the platforms faced another challenge when Visa cut its service with them, citing compliance issues.
According to Bersufekad Getachew, CEO of EagleLion, the tech company behind CashGo, Visa was not happy with its payment gateway being used for remittance services as it believed the proper Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures were not being implemented.
“Following months of discussion, we have made CashGo compliant with their demand, and we are resuming service this week,” Bersufekad told Shega.
Vince Mountaga, founder & CEO of Belcash, the tech firm that developed MamaPays, also shared with Shega the news that MamaPays has been given the green light by Visa and that its resuming service.
The app which only charges one dollar per transaction had facilitated 25,000 transactions before it stopped working.
To be relaunched this month with additional features, MamaPays, besides direct remittance will also focus on remit-to-pay, enabling Ethiopians abroad to settle the bills of their loved ones here.
“Merchants can generate a “PayMe” link on MamaPays, which consumers can share with their families abroad,” said Vince.
“Ethiopians abroad will then remit the payment to the merchant on behalf of the consumer here,” Vince stated, indicating that BelCash aims to onboard 50,000 merchants within 6 months.
Ethio Direct is also a new app in the digital remittance scene. Developed by EagleLion, particularly for the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the app enables Ethiopians living abroad to send foreign currency to their family and friends from anywhere in the world.
Based on the exchange rate, the transferred amount will be settled in the beneficiary’s CBE account in birr immediately upon transfer success. The sender can also send the money as a cash Pickup transfer if the beneficiary doesn’t have a CBE bank account.
Ethiopia received $1.3 billion in remittances sent home by the diaspora community in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.