20 January 2013

Ethiopia: Three-in-One

"The devil is in the details" explained Debretsion Gebremikael, PhD, , Minister of Communications and Information Technology, explaining the long and ardous process of setting up a Unified Billing System (UBS), whereby customers can pay their electric, water and telephone bills at one centre.

Two years later than initially planned, the system was finally launched at the Sheraton on Thursday, January 17, 2012. Starting from February, 31 centers dubbed Lehulu, translated as 'for all' will be giving UBS service to 1.1 million bill paying customers.

These centres will be operated by Kifiya Financial Technologies, in a public-private partnership system, a subsidiary company of Global Computing Solutions PLC (GCS). The company will process 2.1 million transactions and get paid 2.54 cents for each transaction. An additional ten centres will be opened in the capital and 15 more in four regional towns including Adama, Hawassa, Mekelle and Bahir Dar.

A customer can use any of the centers to pay his bills, and is not restricted by geography. Lack of financing for GCS and availability of housing to open the centers had been roadblocks that delayed the process, according to Debretsion.

Flanked by officials from all three utility companies and management of Kifiya, including Meheret Debebe, CEO, of the Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) and Munir Duri, Kifiya Financial Technology, CEO, , Debrestion explained that the final result is worth the wait and something that will save the hassle for a lot of customers.

The Ministry had awarded the contract to Global Computing Solutions (GCS) in June 1,2011. The company, which has long affiliations with American software company NCR and telecommunication company AT&T. It has invested around 102 million Br to the set up 41 Lehulu centres. It will operate Lehulu for three years, and then transfer it to MCIT. The government may run it itself or float out a tender to hand over management of the company again after that period.

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