Ethiopia’s digital payment platforms cut transaction costs in response to Covid-19 outbreak

Three major e-payment and e-commerce platforms in Ethiopia have announced key measures meant to help their customers and the country cope as it grapples with the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The three platforms – M-Birr, Hello Cash and Amole – which cumulatively have about 5 million customers, have – perhaps taking cue from Kenya’s digital payment providers – cut transaction costs and introduced alternative transaction mechanisms for their users.

(TOP: The homepage of M-BIRR, one of the platforms that have cut transaction costs for customers as a result of Covid-19 outbreak in Ethiopia). 

In a joint statement, the three platforms said: “We have a role to continue supporting our communities, the economy and stimulating growth. The best support we can give to the community as our economy starts to slow down is to save our customers money and keep social distancing using electronic transaction to protect the spread of the Coronavirus. We have been in crises before, however, this virus does not discriminate, it’s an attack against humanity but if we pull together as a community, even in this environment, we will win together.”

As part of the move, Amole has scrapped transaction fees on all services including person-to-person (P2P) transfers and will also be offering a 5 per cent instant cashback on any purchases at over 8,000 participating businesses including ecosystem partners (via e-commerce and mobile apps) that are compatible with Amole till April 30, 2020. Amole, a mobile app platform developed and operated by Dashen Bank, has 2.1 million customers. Those using the Amole service will also not be charged any fees on bank to mobile wallet and mobile wallet to bank transactions during this period.

M-BIRR, a mobile money transfer and digital payments service, will also refund all fees for money transfers, bill payment, and electronic purchases of goods and services to all registered customers during the month of April. The cash refund scheme is intended to enable M-BIRR’s 1.6 million customers to send extra cash to dependents and family members who are in need during the Covid-19 crisis. Recipients of the transfers can collect the cash from over 14,000 locations in both urban and rural areas in Ethiopia.

HelloCash, on its part, is offering a free sanitary mask to all HelloMarket online orders from March 28, 2020 till the end of April. The HelloCash platform has also activated a complimentary Hello Services feature within the HelloCash ecosystem to allow end-to-end contactless and cashless transactions to take place.

HelloCash enables customers to carry out transactions in four key areas: deposits, withdrawals, transfers and payments. The HelloCash mobile money service operates on a shared infrastructure model, comprising of multiple banks and micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to serve each other’s customers.

According to the latest update – that is as of April 1, 2020, – 26 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 in Ethiopia with the latest patient being a 42-year old Ethiopian man who arrived back to the country from Australia on March 18, 2020 before he was put in the 14-day quarantine.

Ethiopia has also announced that it has postponed its parliamentary elections which were initially scheduled for August due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

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