At a ceremony where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethio Telecom CEO Frehiwot Tamiru, Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide and other high-ranking government officials were in attendance, Ethio Telecom launched its mobile money platform ‘Tele Birr’.
Tele Birr was developed over the past five months by Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Ethio Telecom has been provided an ETB 100 billion capital from the National Bank of Ethiopia to finance all the necessary operations of Tele Birr. However, the total capital that Ethio Telecom has access to run Tele Birr is ETB 400 billion.
The service is advertised as one of the most integrated mobile banking platforms that even allows customers that do not have bank accounts to engage in mobile banking activities. Tele Birr operates by designating a secure electronic account linked to a customer’s mobile phone number and can be accessed through the USSD code *127# or through its own designated app.
The platform offers money sending, receiving, storing, and transferring services whether it be to friends and family or for business transactions. Additionally, the platform will allow customers to use mobile banking services at supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, etc. The platform can also be used to pay utility and service bills.
Furthermore, Ethio Telecom has affirmed that it is working on integrating with foreign financial entities within the coming weeks to allow Ethiopians to receive money from abroad using Tele Birr.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed the relationship between the launch of Tele Birr and concerns raised by foreign telecom operators that were seeking licenses in Ethiopia. These concerns related to the prohibition of foreign telecom operators, should they be awarded a license, from launching their own digital banking platforms.
The Prime Minister affirmed that this was done in order to first develop the country’s domestic digital banking platforms, especially that of Ethio Telecom, as it is going to be in direct competition with the foreign operators. He also added that allowing foreign entities with tremendous capabilities unfettered access to the finances of Ethiopians posed national security and sovereignty questions that need to be sufficiently addressed.
As such, Ethio Telecom has been provided a year to boost and enhance its capabilities after which, presuming there are no changes to the current policy, foreign operators will also be allowed to provide mobile and digital banking services.
Tele Birr operates by designating a secure electronic account linked to a customer’s mobile phone number and can be accessed through the USSD code *127# or through its own designated app.