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Ethiopia makes U-turn on blocking M-Pesa bid

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Ethiopia Wednesday made a U-turn and allowed foreign telecommunications companies to launch mobile phone-based financial services, setting the stage for Safaricom to introduce its popular M-Pesa in the market of 110 million people.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the mobile financial services in the country will be opened to competition from next May, with foreign firms free to battle with State-run Ethio Telecom.

This marks a departure from last year’s directive that only allowed locally-owned non-financial institutions to offer mobile money service, dimming the hopes of foreign firms like Safaricom that are seeking a presence in Kenya’s neighbouring country.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at a launch ceremony for telebirr that the government had foregone $500 million (about Sh53 billion) by denying bidders for two licences, including Safaricom, the right to roll out mobile financial services.

“We expect Ethio Telecom to strive in a way to compensate this,” he said.

The prime minister said, however, that mobile financial services would be opened up to competition after a year of telebirr operations.

The move would offer Safaricom a path to roll out M-Pesa in Ethiopia’s nascent telecoms sector considered one of the most lucrative in the economy as the once inward-looking country opens up to foreign investment for the first time.

Safaricom had earlier launched talks with the Ethiopian government to launch the mobile money service in the country to boost growth by offering cashless transactions.

The Kenyan telco and South Africa’s MTN are battling for new telecoms operating licences, the latest step in the Horn of Africa nation’s efforts to liberalise its economy.

Safaricom is part of a consortium that includes Vodafone, Vodacom, the United Kingdom’s CDC Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp.

Ethiopia has one of the world’s closed telecoms markets.

Mobile financial services have become a significant part of African telecoms operators’ businesses since Kenya’s Safaricom pioneered them with M-Pesa in 2007, giving people an alternative to banks.

If successful, the Safaricom consortium looks set to launch M-Pesa on the back of the new licence.

The barring of foreign firms meant that for firms like Safaricom to offer the service in Ethiopia, they would need a partnership with Ethio Telecom, which is in line to be privatised through the sale of a minority stake.

The Ethiopia government is preparing to sell a 45 percent stake in Ethio Telecom, part of a broader liberalisation including the auctioning of two new full service telecoms licences.

Ethio Telecom had revenues of $604 million (Sh64.3 billion) in the six months to end of December 2020. Safaricom half-year sales to September stood at Sh118.4 billion.

A telecoms monopoly, Ethio Telecom is seen as the biggest prize due to its huge protected market. Its subscriber base of 50.7 million makes it the biggest single-country customer base of any operator in Africa.

Players like Safaricom are attracted by the growth potential in that market whose 110 million people means the country offers a penetration rate of 46 percent. By contrast, Kenya’s 52.2 million mobile phone subscribers gives it a penetration of 118 percent.

Mobile money services like M-Pesa have the potential to transform Ethiopia’s economy, as it has done in Kenya, by allowing people to sidestep a rickety and inefficient banking system and send money or make payments at the touch of a phone button.

The ability to access digital banking services is likely to be a game-changer for Ethiopians whose banking sector has no way of transferring funds from one bank to another.

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Pain in the new fuel prices

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A litre of petrol in Kenya’s Capital Nairobi will now cost Ksh.134.72 rising from Ksh.127.14.
The cost of diesel meanwhile spikes to Ksh.115.60 from Ksh.107.66 while kerosene will cost Ksh.110.82 from Ksh.97.85.

EPRA has attributed the rising fuel prices higher costs for landed petroleum products with the cost of landed super petrol rising by 0.72 percent, diesel by 4.81 percent and kerosene by 0.96 percent.

In its latest maximum pump price review, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) has raised the prices of super petrol by Ksh.7.58 per litre.

The greater fuel costs are expected to hurt Kenyans not just at the pump but also in their pockets as the cost of living surges with the prices of other basic commodities rising in the aftermath of higher petrol costs.

Kenyans will face more pain at the pump from Wednesday as petrol prices zoom past the Ksh.130 mark per litre, an all-time high cost for the commodity.

The energy sector regulator however masks the true reasons behind the astronomical surge in fuel costs.

The fund run partly by the National Treasury has provided respite to consumers by lowering margins paid to suppliers/ oil marketers who are later compensated by the exchequer for the hair cut.

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Kenya Set to host the 2nd annual Africa Digital Finance Summit Early Next Year

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Kenya is set to host the 2nd annual Africa Digital Finance Summit (ADFS) on 22nd – 24th February, 2022.

The three-day event themed “The Future of Finance in Africa; our pathway to financial freedom” will incorporate a thought-leadership conference featuring governments, central banks across Africa, prominent executives representing global Fintech operators, start-ups, professionals and decision makers across the world in the financial, economic, technology, fintech and block chain industry to deliberate and forge a pathway towards the future of finance in Africa.

“The Africa Digital Finance Summit 2022 (ADFS) will provide Africa with an opportunity to leapfrog the mistakes of the West by reimagining entire systems of production, financial services, and governance fueled by financial innovations & blockchain technologies thus positioning herself as the continent where solutions in Finance will be implemented successfully,” says Mary Njoki, Organizer and CEO of Glass House PR.

Coming at the backdrop of the Free Trade Agreement in Africa, this annual summit will spearhead the conversation of re-defining value exchange for Africans and encouraging them to leverage on Digital and Decentralized Finance in their businesses and everyday transactions.

The African Fintech report of 2020 states that Africa as a continent has an edge with technology because the mobile subscription penetration rates are up to 80%, thus this summit aims to position Africa as the continent where innovative solutions in digital and decentralized finance will be found and implemented successfully.

During the Africa Digital Finance Summit 2022, the ADFS Report of 2021 will be presented and released to the public. Conversations in the summit will include; understanding blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies, Implementation of Defi in Africa, Policies governing disruption in finance, Introduction of central bank digital currencies in Africa, the introduction of NFTs for art, amongst other topics.

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InterContinental Hotel’s multi million assests put on auction

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According to documents obtained from Garam Auctioneers, some of the cars being auctioned include a Range Rover Discovery, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, and an Isuzu FRR.

The government also has a 33.8 per cent stake in the five-star hotel which at its peak offered accommodation to high profile guests and heads of state.

For years now the state has been looking for a buyer to offload its share to and the new plans could complicate the intended sale.

Some of the options the owners who include associates of former president Daniel arap Moi are considering include; office blocks, stalls and mini-hotels all in one building such as a mall.

n the midst of the Covid-19 economic crisis, the InterContinental Hotel announced in August that it would terminate its lease agreements with KHP, the hotel’s holding company, and close the facility.

As a result, Sovereign Group appeared to be the most likely candidate to acquire the 33.8 percent stake prior to its sale to outsiders.

The Intercontinental Hotels Corporation Group, which is listed in both the UK and the USA, has a 33.8 percent stake in the hotel group.

InterContinental Hotel's multi million assests put on auction | Pulselive  Kenya

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