Ethiopia has joined the ranks of countries across Africa where mobile banking services are beginning to break through. Kifiya, in partnership with Mastercard have launched a service allowing Ethiopian citizens to pay their bills through a mobile account linked to a debit card, credit card, mobile wallet or bank account from anywhere in the world.
This is a welcome breakthrough for Ethiopia for all sorts of reasons. Foreign remittance to the country has leapt significantly in recent years, more than doubling since 2014. There are a number of factors driving this.
A very high proportion of Ethiopian citizens now live in different countries across the world – they’re one of the biggest components of the African diaspora. All these immigrants have family and friends at home who they wish to support.
Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies not just in Africa but across the world. This means ex-pat Ethiopians are looking to invest back into their home, seeing opportunities for a successful return that also helps to lift people they know out of poverty.
Unfortunately, much of that remittance is coming into the country through irregular channels, so there’s little oversight and no guarantee that all the money sent will actually make it to the intended recipients. A favoured alternative to sending money directly is to use a overseas mobile top up service, as airtime is a valuable resource that can connect people not just with each other, but with medical and financial resources.
Kifiya is introducing its services gradually. Step one is allowing users to pay bills instantly from anywhere in the world. This will be a secure way for members of the Ethiopian diaspora to use their resources to help family at home, and be assured the value sent will actually make it to them and have a measurable impact.
Other services the new platform intends to introduce include paying for insurance and educational expenses. As well as letting people safely send money into Ethiopia from abroad, these advances give Ethiopians access to modern banking conveniences. This means they can store and use their money safely in digital accounts, rather living with the security risk of keeping large amounts of cash in their homes, and save time and resources by making payments via mobile rather than having to travel long distances to pay bills in cash.
The spread of mobile banking is making significant improvements to quality of life across Africa.