Equity Group in talks with Ethiopian banks for cross-border mobile payments, e-commerce

Equity Group Holdings’ financial technology unit is in discussions with six Ethiopian banks to collaborate on cross-border mobile payments and e-commerce, reports Bloomberg. Finserve Africa, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kenya’s biggest lender by market value, is targeting remittances from 3 million Ethiopians living outside the country, MD Jack Ngare said. Many African nations are eyeing entry into the Horn of Africa country that has signaled it will open up its economy to foreign investment.

Ngare said Finserve Africa has eight remittance companies already plugged into its platform Ethiopians abroad sent back around USD 4.6 billion in 2017, about a quarter of the nation’s annual forex earnings. Ngare said they will carry out inward remittances, calling this a good thing for Ethiopia, as it needs to attract foreign exchange. Equity has had to work with an Ethiopian sponsoring bank in seeking approvals, and the talks should conclude in three to six months, Ngare said, without giving further details.

Finserve received a licence to operate a mobile virtual network in 2014 and uses the infrastructure of Bharti Airtel’s local business. Finserve is also targeting payments for Chinese trade in the six markets where Equity operates, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. It has signed up Alipay.com, a Chinese third-party payment platform and WeChat, a social media and mobile payments app by Tencent Holdings on a merchant aggregation platform.

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