Apr 3 , 2021

GuzoGo, an online travel booking application, has entered into a deal with Bunna International and Debub Global banks this past week in a bid to expand its payment options and customer base. Under SolGet Travel Plc, the company also signed a similar agreement with Hibret Bank two weeks ago.

GuzoGo was established in early 2020 with 4.5 million Birr in capital and currently employs 36 people at its call centre and other departments.

Tewodros Shiferaw, director-general of Solget Travel Plc, came up with the online travel solution out of frustration at the incapability of travel agencies to issue flight tickets after working hours. Eight out of 10 domestic air travelers come from the countryside where travel agency presence is rare, another reason for developing the travel solution.

Tewodros is a businessman behind companies such as Rosetta Real Estate, which owns assets in Legatafo town, and Nahoo TV. These were companies injecting seed money to launch GuzoGo.

When he first proposed the project, bureaucracy from government offices was a challenge, and financial institutions were not keen to get involved, Tewodros told Fortune.

The application development process was carried out by Ethiopian programmers within a six-month timeframe, according to Bersufikad Getachew, founder and general manager of GuzoGo.

After the development was done, questions about cybersecurity had to be answered to proceed with banks and other digital payment system stakeholders, said Bersufikad.

GuzoGo now works with 12 banks and 10 airlines, with a multilingual call centre, 7473, through which customers can purchase tickets 24 hours a day. The online platform is eyeing up deals with Abay Bank, E-birr and M-birr in the coming weeks, according to Bersufikad.

"It would be better if as many business transactions as possible were made digitally to prevent COVID-19," said Alemayehu Teferi, mobile money division manager at Bunna Bank.

Online payments in Ethiopia have been increasing dramatically over the past few years. Banks are now providing various digital payment options, including online banking and mobile wallets, making cybersecurity more relevant than ever. Firms such as GuzoGo, Ethiopian Airlines and Ethio telecom also feature online transactions among their services.

GuzoGo works with the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) to ensure that their systems guard against cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks are certainly a worry, but Bunna Bank, like GuzoGo and all other private commercial banks in the country, puts their trust in INSA to safeguard them from the threat, Alemayehu told Fortune.

The only bank that has its own cybersecurity department is the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia.

Ephrem Getachew is an expert who has worked on cybersecurity for over seven years. He has seen the most frequent online payment threats: worms, trojans, viruses, phishing, spoofing, man-in-the-middle, denial of service, transaction poisoning and spamming.

Measures have to be taken to reduce the fraud vulnerability of the electronic payment system and boost users' confidence, Ephrem told Fortune.

Applying mandatory annual security audits for online system providers is an important response measure Ephrem believes regulators should enforce to secure the emerging online payment industry. However, awareness training for both technical and non-technical target groups as well as supporting and collaborating with private cybersecurity firms to strengthen the national security apparatus are also areas where the expert sees the need to focus.

"Payment gateway consolidators and banks are a good place to start," Ephrem told Fortune.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1092]

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