President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the Ethiopian government to also consider opening up opportunities for mobile money services as part of the telecommunications liberalization process while assuring Ethiopians that Kenya’s technology giant Safaricom will help transform their country by positively impacting most sectors of the 112 million population economy.
The head of state spoke on Tuesday evening in Addis Ababa during the issuance of an operating license to the Safaricom-led Global Partnership for Ethiopia consortium which won a Kshs 91.8 billion bid to operate telecommunication services in the country. Uhuru used the opportunity to root for mobile money service, MPESA saying if fully exploited, will improve the living standards of the people there.
“Studies have shown that enhanced access to mobile financial services, have a great potential to reduce poverty as more people are enabled, easier and safer savings and in effect, greatly influencing the kind of choices they make in life,” President Kenyatta said.
“In Kenya, the success of M-PESA, Africa’s, if not global, first mobile money platform, is a classic example of what possibilities lie in mobile financial services, if fully exploited,” he added.
While the telecommunications service has been opened to the private sector, which is Safaricom, Ethiopian government has not opened up the mobile financial service as its state-run Ethio Telecom will continue to dominate the sector. Uhuru lauded Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and his administration for choosing to liberalize the country’s telecommunications sector promising him that his country stands at the cusp of making even greater strides in Safaricom’s areas of strength; which include digital presence, mobile money, telephony, data and fibre connectivity, and business solutions.
President Kenyatta said mobile financial services are key in addressing various societal gaps particularly gender disparities as they open up opportunities for women to participate fully in economic development.
“Right from the villages to the cities, financial services have been made possible by mobile financial platform. Women, have particularly been empowered by these services, and are now able to participate meaningfully in the economy, alongside men. This is an area we must devote our collective efforts as we usher in the digital economy,” the President said.
On his part, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed said the award of the telecommunications license will catalyse inclusive prosperity and the competition it will bring will create a vibrant telecommunications sector that will significantly contribute to the growth of the economy through creation of jobs and the rise of new MSMEs.
Other speakers at the colorful event were the Chief Executive Officers of Safaricom Peter Ndegwa, Ethiopian Communications Authority Bacha Reba and Vodafone South Africa Shameel Joosub.
Global Partnership for Ethiopia which brings together Kenya’s Safaricom, South Africa’s Vodacom, UK’s Vodafone, British finance agency CDC Group, and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation won the 15-year license in a competitive bidding process making it the first private telecoms player in the country.
With the issuance of the license, the consortium will officially start its operations in the Horn of Africa nation next year and is expected to expend over Kshs 864 billion in ten years, making it the largest FDI in Ethiopia’s history.