With the Safaricom Ethiopia launch still some months off, the country’s state-owned incumbent Ethio Telecom has again taken advantage of its sole service provider position with the introduction of another mobile finance-related service in Africa’s second most populous country.
Ethio Telecom and the country’s Information Network Security Administration (INSA) recently launched a monthly water service bill payment offering via mobile payment system Telebirr.
The agreement, signed last week, allows Telebirr subscribers in the towns of Arba Minch, Bahir Dar, Dessie, Finote Selam, Harari, Injibara and Kombolcha to pay for water and sewerage services via Telebirr through INSA’s Derash integrated payment platform.
Apart from the convenience of the system, it is hoped that the new scheme will improve the timeliness and reliability of monthly bill collection; customers will be able to settle their bills wherever they are.
Other bonuses are likely to include improvements in customer relationship management through the generation of real-time reports, as well as the chance to segment and identify customers more easily according to their level of service utilization.
The scheme will also, of course, further boost the use of digital payments in the country. In fact, according to the Origins Business website, the Telebirr payment system now has over 19 million subscribers, more than 82 master agents, over 67,000 agents and more than 17,000 merchants. It has also integrated with 12 banks to offer money transfers.
Ethio Telecom has been expanding the scope of Telebirr for a while now. As we reported in March, a drivers' traffic penalty payment platform was another recently launched service.
As for the competition, though no precise date has yet been set, Safaricom Ethiopia is reportedly set to start commercial operations within the next seven months. Just over a week ago we reported that Safaricom is planning to raise up to $2 billion from local banks and development finance institutions over the next five years to fund its new Safaricom Ethiopia operation.