Ethio telecom goes solo in integrating tele birr

Ethio Telecom continues to integrate its mobile money platform, tele birr, with financial institutions as the integration process between Ethio telecom and EthSwitch lags behind.
“As per the directive of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), we have been on the process of integrating our system with Telebirr,” said Yilebes Addis, CEO of EthSwitch, adding, “As a financial institution telebirr can benefit from the interoperability of wallet, mobile, and internet banking that EthSwitch provides for financial institutions such as banks and micro finance institutions.”
However, it has been well over a year since the negotiations to onboard tele birr as part of Ethswitch took place, without tangible results to show for it.
Currently, Ethio Telecom is working with banks on its own with regards to interconnecting telebirr transactions.
As sources cite, even though there were discussions to integrate Ethio Telecom with the national switch operator, the telecommunications firm has now already built up interlinks with financial institution which is well established and sees no need of integrating at least for now.
However, under the ‘Licensing and Authorization of Payment System Operators Directive No. ONPS/02/2020’, EthSwitch is the only body that is allowed to provide the interoperability scheme between payment instrument issuers, be it telebirr or other financial firms.
Article nine sub article one of the directive likewise indicates that there shall be a single national switch operator.
The same article sub article 2 adds that EthSwitch SC shall be the national switch for card and instant retail payments and transfers.
As Yilebes explained, there are technical and legal criteria that payment instrument issuers should fulfill to which EthSwitch has tabled the same to Ethio Telecom. “One of the main criteria is regulatory requirement which has been fulfilled. However,we don’t know what issues have made it to take this long in terms of integration,”Yilebes elaborated.
EthSwitch’s interoperability enables transfers from bank account to bank account, wallet to wallet, wallet to bank account and from bank accounts to wallet using internet based and USSD channels as well as smart phone applications. Customers of banks, MFIs and e-money issuers with digital wallet, mobile and internet banking and accounts are also enabled to send funds from one institution to another.
Currently, Telebirr is integrated with more than 16 banks. In fact, it requires more than 80 interfaces, if wallet, mobile and internet banking operators prefer to interface individually. However if Tele joins links withEthSwitch, it can simply interface all of them with the single central switch of the operator.
“It is difficult to transfer from telebirr to CBE birr or others. But once they come onboard, all operators will be accessible with one account,” Yilebes said, adding, “Currently, other banks and MFIs are integrating on the platform. Foreign mobile money operators in the pipeline, including Safaricom, will also integrate.”
In May 2021, Ethio Telecom broke through the country’s financial bubble by availing telebirr; and has been making huge strides in the financial space by introducing the capabilities of mobile money.
The interoperability will allow telebirr to ease the transactions from banks to its platform and vice versa.
Financial companies are expected to buy 5 percent or 40 million birr of share from EthSwitch to become a member and if they are not capable of buying the 40 million birr share, they can also buy shares equal to their 5 percent of subscribed capital.
The digital cash system enables its 24.9 million users to access financial services including transferring money locally and making purchases online and at convenient stores.
Capital’s effort to get further comments from Ethio Telecom was unfruitful.

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