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Minister launches Ethiopian mobile money service

The Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock, TD, today launched Ethiopia’s first nationwide mobile money service.

Developed with Irish investment and supported through Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-up Scheme, the M-BIRR service allows people – especially in very rural areas - to do basic financial transactions through their mobile phones.

The Irish Government, through its overseas development programme, together with the Ethiopian government and UNICEF, decided to pilot the technology of M-BIRR mobile money service to deliver welfare payments to very poor households in rural Ethiopia.

Speaking at the launch Minister Sherlock said:

“This project is a breakthrough for Irish business in Ethiopia.

“Our support for the pilot scheme enabled the technology of M-BIRR to provide a mobile transaction service for some of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia. During my recent visit to Ethiopia, I saw the users of this service withdrawing cash through the M-BIRR system, which they were then able to use to buy food, seeds to plant and other crucial supplies.

“I am confident that the service will grow and in the coming years have a positive impact on millions of people, for example by delivering welfare payments to very poor households in rural Ethiopia.

“This is a country where only one in ten people have a bank account and so the M-BIRR service marks a new departure and has the potential to draw millions of people into the banking system.”

Based on the success of this pilot, the M-BIRR service is now making transfers for over 25,000 people. Clients of the service say that it is much more convenient as they are now able to receive their money in close to their homes in a secure way, avoiding transportation expenses and long queues.

Minister Sherlock also highlighted how this project reflects the changing nature of Africa and its direct benefits for development:

“Africa is changing rapidly – and with this our perceptions of this great continent also need to change. Many of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies are in Africa – and it is in Africa in the years ahead that many Irish companies will invest and develop successful partnerships.

“This initiative is an excellent example of how the private sector can support economic and social transformation in Africa. Having a decent job is widely recognised as the best way out of poverty. The private sector provides some 90% of jobs in developing countries, and is thus an essential partner in the fight against poverty.

“This service will assist the Government of Ethiopia to expand banking services and will encourage people to save. In a country as large and diverse as Ethiopia, the service, which can transfer funds in real time, will facilitate businesses to trade across the country with confidence and allow friends and families to send cash home.

“The private sector has great potential for generating inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries as well as having major role in fostering a green economy through innovation and investment in low-carbon and resource-efficient solutions, such as M-BIRR.”

Press Office
26 March 2015

Notes for Editors:

• Irish Aid is the Government’s overseas development programme. It is managed by the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

• Ireland has had a long term engagement with the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, having enjoyed an on-the-ground presence since 1994.

• The goal of Ireland’s five-year bilateral partnership is “to support Ethiopia’s growth and poverty reduction plans so that the poor benefit from, and contribute to, equitable economic, social and environmental development.” The strategy is in line with Ireland’s new foreign policy and the Ethiopian Government’s Growth and Transformation Plan.

• Ireland provides up to €30 million per annum in development assistance to Ethiopia. These funds are channelled through non-governmental organisations, multilateral agencies and the Government of Ethiopia in support of a range of programmes focusing on improving rural livelihoods, food security and nutrition and health.

• MOSS – an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up Scheme - secured contracts to provide the Mobile Financial Software and associated ICT services to the five largest Ethiopian Micro Finance Institutions involved in M-BIRR.

• MOSS is a joint Irish-Finnish venture that specialises in the delivery of mobile money services