12 January 2014

Ethiopia: Electronic System to Replace Plastic Mobile Top-Up Cards

Kifiya Financial Technology Plc (KFT) is working with ethio-telecom to introduce an electronic airtime distribution service. This will be designed to be a cheaper replacement of the existing scratch cards used for prepaid mobile customers.

Ethio telecom's Corporate Communications director, Abdurahim Ahmed, declined to make any comment, but the service could become a reality in two weeks, according to Eyob Getahun, Public Relations head at Kifya.

When launched, the electronic airtime distribution service will replace the common scratch cards. The very objective of the project is to cut down on the foreign currency spent on the purchase of the plastic mobile airtime cards. Although the paper airtime recharging e-cards will also be imported, their cost will be significantly less, says Kifya.

"The cost of the scratch cards is too high and cards need complex printing and complicated distribution networks," Eyob Getahun, public relations officer of Kifya, said. "On top of that, they are not environmentally friendly."

Unlike with the current scratch card, the pin number would be printed on paper from an e-card terminal. These would be designed to print the numbers from data stored on ethio-telecom's server online, using a private network GSM (Global Station for Mobile Communication). The terminal owner would insert a password and username to print the airtime required, and sell it on the spot.

"Through the studies, it has been proven that the project is viable," Eyob said. "Kifya will, thus, implement the new scheme soon."

Abdurahim Ahmed, the corporate communications director at ethio telecom, did not comment to Fortune, despite repeated efforts.

Ethio-telecom has so far been availing scratch cards worth five Birr, 10 Br, 15Br, 25Br, 50 Br and 100Br only. The new service will, however, provide customers with the option of recharging any amount.

Fortune has learnt that Kifya has recruited new staff from its branches and has been offering them training at its headquarters at the Finfinnee Building, around Meskel Square.

The agreement with ethio-telecom is expected to evolve into a scheme in which private vendors will lease airtime from them to distribute to customers.

Established in 2010, Kifya runs the 31 Lehulu centres and provides one window electronic billing service to 1.1 million bill paying customers to pay their water, electric and telephone bills.

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