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Business: Partnership between Oromia Bank, EthSwitch sees Mastercard withdrawals kick off in Ethiopia

Picture: Oromia Bank

By Tom Bleach, thefintechtimes

For the first time, Mastercard debit, credit and prepaid cards are accepted in Ethiopia. The news follows partnerships between the financial services giant and two Ethiopian financial firms.
 Addis Abeba – EthSwitch, Ethiopia’s national payment switch, and Ethiopia-based Oromia Bank have partnered with Mastercard. The move brings Mastercard services to the citizens of Ethiopia.

Both tourists and local citizens carrying Mastercard payment cards are now enabled to withdraw local currency from Oromia Bank ATMs. The ‘EthSwitch network’ is to process all of these withdrawals.

The next phase of the partnership aims to enable people to pay for goods and services with Mastercard payment cards. Oromia Bank, EthSwitch and Mastercard are collaborating, ensuring the cards can be used at Point of Sale.

Big players in Ethiopia’s financial industry

ATM usage has increased rapidly in Ethiopia, having been first implemented in 2001. By the end of the 2020/2021 fiscal year, Ethiopia had processed a combined total of over 225 million ATM transactions. Interbank transactions processed by EthSwitch made up around six per cent (38,302,370) of these.

Oromia Bank also has significant outreach in Ethiopia, boasting over 400 branches nationwide. Moreover, the bank has also introduced new banking practices into the nation, including interest-free banking services.

Bettering financial freedom for Ethiopians

Shehryar Ali, country manager for East Africa at Mastercard, explained the company’s commitment to supporting Ethiopia’s digital transformation objectives. “Ethiopians are increasingly seeking safe, seamless, and consistent digital experiences. Backed by the speed and security of Mastercard’s global network, we are pleased to partner with and EthSwitch and Oromia Bank to lead the transition to digital, while supporting Digital Ethiopia 2025 vision to modernize the payment system,” Shehryar said.

“Importantly, we are also contributing to the financial freedom of Ethiopia’s citizens, and anyone visiting the country for work or leisure. Together, we can connect more people to the global digital economy while laying the groundwork for future innovation.”

Teferi Mekonnen, president of Oromia Bank, explained the recent developments for payments in Ethiopia. “Ethiopia has witnessed a significant shift in [the] growth of electronic payments over the last few years and the bank has played a significant role in pioneering new banking practices,” Teferi said, adding that the Bank “remain committed to developing appropriate payments channels to provide people with more convenient, secure, and reliable ways to access funds in the country. This partnership with EthSwitch and Mastercard is the latest example of how we continue to collaborate on this journey.”

Yilebes Addis, chief executive officer at EthSwitch, commented on the national payment switch’s aims for Ethiopian payments. He said: “Oromia Bank is the first bank to accept Mastercard payment cards using EthSwitch as the payments processor – a milestone we are extremely proud of.”

Yilebes further explained that “he mandate of EthSwitch is to contribute to the modernization of the national payments system and enhance financial inclusion in the country. Through this partnership, we are progressing [toward] this goal by enabling interoperability of ATMs and making it easier for people to transact.”

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