, ETHIOPIA, Apr 20 – Outside a small store on a dirt track in the remote Ethiopian town of Doni, long queues wait for government cash handouts by the most modern of methods: mobile phone.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and one of its fastest growing economies, is pushing a new electronic payment service by phone – called M-Birr, or “mobile-money” – in a bid to bring millions into the banking system and financial services.
Here in Doni, a remote town of some 5,000 people, 130 kilometres (85 miles) southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, signs displayed for M-Birr testify to the popularity of this new service.
Government “safety net” social security payments to some of the poorest people are now transferred with a few key strokes.
The service cuts out cumbersome bureaucracy, that previously forced customers to travel long distances and spend time waiting for requests to be processed, sometimes having to return the following day to collect the cash.
“M-Birr is more convenient for beneficiaries,” said the system’s local manager in Doni, Adane Hirpho.
“We have five agents in the city. People come into one of these stores and get their money immediately.”
Created by Irish company MOSS ICT, the service was launched in Ethiopia early 2015, in collaboration with several banks and five Ethiopian micro-finance institutions.