Mobile money service awaits NBE’s approval

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Five micro finance institutions are waiting for the National Bank of Ethiopia’s (NBE) go ahead to commence full operation of Mbirr.
Mbirr is a mobile money service delivered by a number of financial institutions in Ethiopia that allows people and businesses to conduct basic financial transactions from the convenience of their mobile phone. With the use of mobile phones, subscribers to this service, who are not required to pay any fee to sign up, can transfer, receive and withdraw money, pay bills, top-up mobile cards, and buy goods, among other things, said Thierry Artaud, General Manager of M.O.S.S. ICT Technology, an Irish based company. The service benefits users by being able to send and receive money safely and securely and by offering a reduced cost for receiving international remittances. Furthermore, it will allow donors to disburse money directly to families, removing the logistical complexity of physically distributing money.
The government legalized mobile-based transactions as of January 01, 2013 via a directive so that banks and MFIs could provide mobile money services and increase the number of people engaged in the banking system.
After procuring the application from M.O.S.S, these institutions started trial services in April 2013. 
Micro finance institutions including Addis Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI), Amhara Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI) Oromia Credit and Saving Institution (OCSI), South Credit and Saving Institution (SCSI) and Dedebit Credit and Saving Institution (DCSI), are already providing the trial Mbirr service for people who have subscribed at different agents.
The trial service was supposed to last for only three to four months. It has been seven months now since the trial service started.
According to reliable sources, the institutions have filed the report of the trial service immediately after the trial period deadline for the NBE to give its final approval to launch the full operation.
These five microfinance institutions presented their second request to the NBE last week in an effort to quickly implement the operation of the Mbirr service, according to him. “They were told to just wait as the bank is still scrutinizing the reports of the trial,” according to sources.
Artaud said that one does not have to physically go even to buy goods once they have deposited money in their account. “They can simply use their phone to make payments whenever their payment is required, by sending the required amount to their Mbirr mobile,” he said. “You can be anywhere, where there’s a mobile telephone connection, and pay for goods and services from Mekina.net, DSTV and Ethiosouq for instance,” he told Capital. 
Mbirr service will build on the financial services that micro finance institutions already offer in the country and will allow them to develop branchless networks of retail units which in turn will increase MFIs outreach to underserved and unbanked people without having to open new branches or invest in new technologies. 
Ethiopia’s microfinance sector, the largest in Africa, has grown tremendously over the past few years. The ownership of mobile phones is also growing fast. Reaching rural areas through the mobile network is an attractive opportunity for MFIs.