A noteworthy stride has been made by Safaricom as it reports its customer base in Ethiopia has reached 5 million in less than a year after launching services. Regardless of experiencing a commendable growth rate, after half a year, the mobile operator still stands behind the market leader with a significant gap.

The achievement is seen as an exciting development in Safaricom’s journey towards hitting its targeted goal of onboarding 10 million customers by March next year. Stephen Kiptinness, Safaricom’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, confirmed that the company had successfully reached midway to their target.

The company unfolded its services in Ethiopia in early October last year, bringing competition to the market as the first private player. The market, viewed as one of the last major growth opportunities in the telecoms world, holds incredible potential. Nonetheless, it also makes room for a challenging race as state-owned incumbent Ethio Telecom made significant customer growth.

With a mobile customer base of nearly 70 million at the end of June, Ethio Telecom outnumbers Safaricom’s customers massively. This impressive number is a result of an increase of 28 million in the four years since mid-2019.

The introduction of the Telebirr mobile money service by Ethio Telecom in 2021 has undoubtedly fueled its customer growth. Amassing 34.3 million subscribers and a total transaction value of 679.2 billion birr ($12.4 billion), Telebirr has made its mark, reflecting positively on Ethio Telecom.

However, Safaricom is all set to make a dent in this monopoly with the introduction of M-Pesa to Ethiopia. After securing the necessary permits, they launched M-Pesa just last week. With their eyes on financial inclusion, M-Pesa aims to replicate its success in Africa where it serves over 51 million customers across seven countries.

Stanley Njoroge, Interim CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia, expressed his excitement about bringing M-Pesa to Ethiopia, emphasizing its safe and secure platform. M-Pesa may be the game-changer Safaricom needs in Ethiopia, accelerating the uptake of its services amidst the looming prospect of new competition in the market.

Despite a few initial restrictions on international telcos intending to penetrate the Ethiopian market, Safaricom persisted. With their operating license in hand since two years ago, they’re embracing the challenges arising from the government’s plans to licence another international telco.

With potential competitors eyes peeled for the opportunity to offer mobile financial services, it’s becoming increasingly evident that these transactions play a significant role for telecom operators in Ethiopia. The race has started, and Safaricom may indeed make waves in the Ethiopian telecom market with its ambitions.