CEO Firehiwot Tamiru Says Banklessness Can Fuel Economy
Telco nationalized in Ethiopia Ethio Telecom launched three new mobile banking services under the motto Financial service for all with the aim of improving access to the financial system. The initiative is carried out in collaboration with Dashen Bank because at present 60% of the population does not have access to a smartphone, reports All of Africa.
The three services, Telebirr Mela, Tele birr Endekise and Telebirr Kuteba (Sanduk) include monetary transactions and Firehiwot Tamiru, CEO of Ethio Telecom, claimed that in the last year alone, Ethio Telecom managed to register 2.2 million telebirr clients. Meanwhile, the Governor of Ethiopia’s National Bank praised Ethio Telecom for modernizing the country’s financial services and expanding access through digitization of the national currency Birr.
Telebirr Mela is a credit service that negotiates loans of up to 2,000 birr (€37) per day and up to 10,000 birr (€185) per month depending on the money transaction history of a customer at the bank. Tele birr Endekise is a system designed to allow a customer to overdraft up to 2,000 birr (€37) per day with a service charge for a customer when their telebirr balance is depleted while attempting to purchase goods. Telebirr Kuteba (Sanduk) is a program that allows all customers to save and its limit starts at a penny, with or without interest, reports All Africa.
The launch in Addis Ababa was attended by National Bank of Ethiopia Governor Yanager Dese, Planning and Development Minister Fitsum Asefa, Dashen Bank Chairman Asfaw Alemu and senior government officials.
“Telebirr has benefited our customers to facilitate their daily activities when it comes to paying bills online,” said Firehiwot Tamiru, CEO of Ethio Telecom, (pictured above) [telebirr] earns us $1 million from international remittances and connects us to 37 countries.
However, Telebirr was designed only for users who have smartphones, which ignores the majority of Ethiopians – some 60% of Ethiopia’s total population, according to the CEO. “That’s why Ethio-telecom chose to work with Dashen Bank to bring these financial services to everyone, regardless of what mobile phone people have,” Tamiru said.
Yinager Dessie, the Governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia, said that Ethiopian banks’ IT has been traditional for far too long and praised the joint efforts of the bank and the telecom operator to bring the national financial system to the higher level. “The National Bank will provide comprehensive support to any bank that wants to join these digital services,” Dessie said.
Firehiwot said digital financial programs have been designed to benefit “forgotten” sections of society who do not have reliable incomes. An artificial intelligence system will be launched which will calculate the credit score of any individual wishing to borrow money without a collateral loan to start their small business. “Since we are targeting the poorest, the system will have a healthy economy in the country,” Firehiwot said.
Ethio-telecom now has 67.2 million customers and is the second largest telecommunications operator in Africa and ranks 25th out of 778 telecommunications operators worldwide.
“Dashen Bank is delighted to be working with Ethio-telecom to launch this digital financial system that will serve the entire community in Ethiopia regardless of income,” said Asfaw Alemu, Chairman of Dashen Bank, “our staff have done all necessary preparations to operate.”