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.
Nairobi Residents To Now Use Public Toilets For Free.
Nairobi residents will now be able to access public toilets in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) free of charge ahead of the issuance of new operation guidelines next week.
This after the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) took over the management of the facilities from the hands of private entities.
The Major General Mohamed Badi-led administration said National Youth Service (NYS) officers have been deployed across the facilities to man the toilets.
“Yes, NMS has taken over all the public toilets in the CBD and we closed them yesterday for renovation. Public toilets are meant to be free. The National Youth Service will be deployed at the public toilets,” said NMS.
According to NMS, a roadmap on how the toilets will be managed will be made public in the coming week. A public notice plastered on the toilets read: “Kindly note all public toilets have been closed due to security reasons. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused. Ordered by NMS.”
Running of public toilets is a highly charged business that has perennially attracted running battles from different groups fighting for control over the facilities.
Politicians, private toilet proprietors, and youth groups have been at the centre of tug of war for the control of the multi-million industry.
It is estimated that a single toilet is able to make at least Sh15,000 a day after deduction of operational expenditure with residents charged between Sh5 and Sh10 depending on the service sought.
Nairobi city centre plays host to more than 18 public toilets which have found themselves under the management of private entities after being sub-contracted by the county government.
Though there is no reliable data, City Hall said there are 68 public toilets in the city with 18 located within the CBD.
The facilities are operated under the public-private partnership that came into effect in 1999 when the defunct Nairobi City Council engaged the business community to find a solution to the deplorable conditions of the facilities.
Many others were privatised during the regime of Nairobi’s first governor Evans Kidero with the former governor saying they lacked capacity to run them.
To regain their investment, the operators were allowed to charge a small fee from residents to use the toilets.
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USAID Yet To Release ARVs To The Government.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has disclosed that there are still 13 containers of the consignment yet to be cleared at the port due to a lack of permits from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB).
As the tussle between the Ministry of Health and USAID continues, the greatest worry is the fact that the expiration dates for some of the medicaments is drawing near.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is yet to release a large consignment of ARV medication to the government of Kenya, despite the clearance of the shipment from the port of Mombasa.
In a meeting with the National Assembly Health Committee regarding the push and pull, KRA stated that since January 2021, it has cleared 78*40 foot containers and 1*20 foot containers of medical supplies consigned to Chemonics.
Only 13 containers are lying at the Mombasa container terminal transit shed, pending customs clearance; these containers, which arrived between February 5 and March 5, include HIV self-testing kits and various HIV medication.
“The 78 were provisionally cleared by KRA because we had permits from Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the other 13 do not have permits,” said Lilian Nyawanda – Commissioner, Customs and Border Control.
The ministry pointing out that was a new development contrary to assurances presented by PEPFAR in a 14th April meeting that involved communities of people living with HIV/AIDS, promising immediate distribution of the ARVs upon clearance.
Safaricom to launch the fifth generation(5G) internet servive in Nairobi and Western Kenya this friday.
The leading telecommunication company this Friday will launch the fifth generation (5G) mobile internet service. Last year they completed their testing and are set to launch. Safaricom 5G launch is targeting major urban centers. This will offer commercial and superfast service in the region.
The 5G service will be available in Nairobi and Western region. This regions will have an increase in data traffic. The firm will be the first telecommunication company in East Africa to launch the 5G internet service.
Subscribers who want to use the 5G services are needed to get a new handset that will be compatible with the 5G services in order to enjoy faster internet. The 5G mobile internet service will be able to reduce network congestion making it easy download and upload speeds.
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