Abay Bank is entering into a partnership with AirfPay, a fin-tech company that provides digital solutions, to launch a mobile POS (m-POS) service in the coming weeks.

ArifPay is part of an emerging industry spurred by a directive the central bank issued last year allowing non-financial institutions to operate as payment instrument issuers, including the supply of m-POS card reader devices. An m-POS is a smartphone or tablet that can perform a cash register or a traditional POS machine wirelessly. It enables account holders to use an ATM card from any bank.

The Bank will begin distributing the devices to its merchant customers in the coming month, according to Eriste Woldemaryam, director of digital banking at Abay.

"We plan to introduce more alternatives for electronic payment," Eriste told Fortune.

A bank with a paid-up capital of 1.7 billion Br, Abay is also teaming up with Engida Travel Solutions to launch applications to book cross-country luxury bus tickets and flight tickets and hotels.

Engida Travel Solutions was established in 2020 with 3.5 million Br in initial capital. It has developed the Liyu bus ticketing application, working with eight transport services, including those who make cross-border trips to Khartoum. Engida is also developing applications for flight and hotel booking services.

The bus ticketing solution has already received certification from the Ministry of Innovation & Technology, according to Seyoum Mengesha, head of the Private Sector Industry Technology Support Directorate at the Ministry.

The Ministry issues competency certificates to ICT-related companies operating in manufacturing, computer equipment sales, software engineering, networking, and consultancy services.

The bus ticketing application will be launched this coming week, according to Eriste.

The hotel booking application incorporates domestic and foreign hotels on a pay-on-arrival basis. The application will feature more than 150 hotels in the country and works with Expedia in incorporating hotels abroad.

"We'll first serve domestically and transition soon to international bookings," said Eriste.

However, the hotel booking application is still undergoing security checks and testing, Banteab Abiy, co-founder and CEO of Engida Travel Solutions, told Fortune.

Abay Bank, in business since November 2010 with 4,000 shareholders, is also focused on strengthening its digital security, according to Elias Berhanu, information technology director at the Bank.

"Abay is working on its capacity to defend against cyberattacks by creating awareness in employees and customers and updating its firewalls," he said.

The new services will be an addition to the digital payment options for Uni-Cash, a utility payment platform that the Bank partnered with last year. The platform, developed by Atlas Computer Technology, allows users to pay utility bills, transportation fees, and school fees digitally.

The platform has registered over 47,000 users so far, according to Meried Tilahun, managing director of Atlas. The company has been working for over 10 years with financial institutions in building financial infrastructure and core banking support, leasing servers from Ethio telecom for 40,000 Br a month.

Almost none of these ventures would be possible without the POS and ATM interoperability implemented by EthSwitch, the national switch operator, in recent years.

M-POS systems are user-friendly and convenient, making them preferable for merchants and consumers, says Fikiru Woldetinsae, marketing and innovation director at EthSwitch.

"The device might have a discounted price and a better efficiency than the traditional copper cable POS devices," he said. "It has the potential to enhance digital marketing and e-payment methods."

EthSwitch is currently running a pilot project for the integration of digital payment systems in the country.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 24,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1095]

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