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    HomeEcosystem NewsEASTERN AFRICAEthiopia Opens Banking Sector to Foreign Digital Disruptors

    Ethiopia Opens Banking Sector to Foreign Digital Disruptors

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     In a groundbreaking move aimed at modernizing its banking sector, Council of Ministers of Ethiopia has approved draft legislation allowing foreign banks to operate within the country. This decision marks a significant shift in Ethiopia’s economic policy, potentially opening the door for increased competition and innovation in the banking sector.

    The draft law, endorsed unanimously by the Council, is a response to both recent advancements in global financial technology and the Ethiopian government’s commitment to economic reform. It will now be sent to parliament for ratification.

    Key Provisions of the Draft Law

    • Foreign Ownership: The legislation permits foreign investors to participate in Ethiopia’s banking sector by establishing subsidiaries, opening branches, or acquiring shares in existing domestic banks.
    • Regulatory Oversight: Foreign banks operating in Ethiopia will be subject to the regulatory authority of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE).
    • Prompt Corrective Action: The law introduces measures for the NBE to take prompt action on struggling banks, ensuring the stability of the financial system.
    • Innovation Sandbox: A regulatory sandbox framework has been established to encourage the introduction of new and innovative financial services.
    • Resolution Authority: The NBE has been granted the authority to manage the resolution of failing banks, minimizing the impact on customers.

    Impact on Ethiopia’s Banking Landscape

    Ethiopia’s banking industry is currently dominated by the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. With a total of 32 players, all locally owned, the sector has long been shielded from foreign competition. The government’s decision to open the market is expected to usher in a new era of diversity and potentially lower costs for consumers.

    The NBE has set ambitious targets, aiming to issue up to five banking licenses to foreign investors over the next five years. The Central Bank has been actively revising existing legislation, including the Banking Business law, to facilitate this transition.

    Technological Advancements in Mobile Money

    The move to welcome foreign banks comes on the heels of the NBE’s recent reforms in the mobile money sector. These reforms include:

    • Inclusion of Non-Banks: Non-bank entities can now participate in the mobile money sector, fostering competition and innovation.
    • Investment in Securities: Mobile money platforms are now authorized to facilitate user investments in government and private securities.

    These developments, combined with the impending launch of Ethiopia’s first securities exchange, indicate a rapidly evolving financial ecosystem in the country.

    The potential entry of foreign digital banks into Ethiopia is poised to revolutionize the nation’s banking landscape. While the exact impact remains to be seen, increased competition, technological innovation, and expanded access to financial services are among the anticipated benefits.

    This move aligns with the government’s broader goals of financial inclusion and economic growth, potentially improving the lives of millions of Ethiopians. As the draft law progresses through parliament, the global financial community will be watching closely to see how this bold step unfolds.

    Charles Rapulu Udoh has carved a niche at the forefront of Africa’s booming tech scene. With years of experience, Udoh has become a go-to expert for multi-million dollar deals in venture capital, private equity, and intellectual property across a vast landscape — from Delaware and New York to Singapore and South Africa. But his expertise extends beyond just the legalese. Udoh is also a corporate governance, data privacy, and tax whiz. An award-winning writer and researcher, he’s passionate about chronicling Africa’s startup story, cementing his position as a true pioneer in the field.

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