16 August 2014

Ethiopia: NBE Prohibits Mobile Top-Up Service

The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) sent a letter to all banks informing them that mobile top-ups are not going to be considered as financial services and that financial institutions operating in Ethiopia are not allowed to offer the services to their customers.

This was disclosed by Getahun Nana, Vice Governor for Financial Institutions Supervision in a circular distributed to members of the financial institution this week.

The letter instructed banks, which are engaged in provision of such service, to halt the service as of Thursday. One of the banks that officially gave the service was Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the sate-owned banking giant. Customers of the bank with accounts used to be able to recharge prepaid mobile accounts while the bank affecting the payments by deducting money from customers account at CBE.

According to sources, CBE started to offer this services first to its employees who are using its mobile banking services as a test run to the mobile top-up services which it planned to give to its services.

Other than CBE, other banks and a company called M-Birr plans to work with other banks and have been advertising the services of mobile top-up services.

Meanwhile, limits on mobile banking transactions as per article 5 of the Directive No FIS/01/ 2012 is only applicable to agent banking and thus individual institutions shall set their own internal limits for mobile, internet and other electronic based transactions which means the limit 6,000 birr is lifted as of August 14.

Though there are a number of banks that have installed Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) throughout the country the limit to withdraw from the machine from many of the banks is not exceeding 5,000 birr; however, few weeks prior to the letter of the NBE, Bank of Abyssinia had announced that it is pioneering a card payment system, an ATM card, where a customer can withdraw as much as 15,000 birr in single time.

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