Zemen Bank President Tsegaye Tetemke (left) and Haile Gebreselassie (Photo: Addis Fortune)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  – Zemen Bank has joined the pool of domestic banks, including Wegagen, Dashen, and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), in offering Visa card services at its automated teller machines (ATMs).

Zemen has also appointed Ethiopia’s top athlete Haile Gebrselassie as the bank’s new ambassador.

The Bank has been accepted by Visa International’s worldwide network of banks, headquartered in San Francisco, California, which provides card acceptance services to customers globally. The 25 ATMs of Zemen Bank will join the 70 Q-link ATMs already accepting Zemen’s card of Dashen Bank in accepting internationally issued Visa-branded cards from anywhere in the world.

This will allow customers to withdraw Birr from their own bank accounts located in other countries, using a Visa card through Zemen’s ATMs. Customers using the card will also be able to check savings and credit card account balances, Helawe Tadesse, vice president of the Bank, told Fortune.

Dashen Bank, which has 85 total ATMs with more than 685 point of sale (POS) machines, was a pioneer in offering Visa card services among domestic banks, followed by Wegagen Bank. Wegagen provides the service from its 27 ATMs, while the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the third bank to offer Visa card service, operates 58 ATMs.

Visa International’s network was established in 1970 and now operates in 170 countries around the world.

Zemen Bank has also launched prepaid bank cards, which can be used without opening a deposit account at the Bank. The cards will have preloaded funds, which can be withdrawn from ATMs or used to make purchases from POS terminals.

The prepaid cards will be given to the cardholder with a personal identification number (PIN) to withdraw the cash with, Tsegaye Tetemke, the newly appointed president of the bank, said. The prepaid cards can be used as gift cards or employee salary or expense cards, which can avoid the need to carry around large amounts of cash.

The cards can be preloaded with a minimum of 100 Br and a maximum of 50,000 Br and be reloaded after the previous funds have been fully utilized.

The Bank will take a commission each time a card is loaded.

Zemen is also starting a new savings programme with a seven per cent interest rate for long-term deposits of at least 500,000 Br.

For its savings campaign, the Bank will also introduce domestic and international vacation packages for high cash depositors, along with other benefits, according to a top manager at the Bank.

The Bank is also preparing to offer mobile banking service to the 14 million mobile phone users in the country by March 2012, after securing an endorsement from National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE). The service will enable clients to send and receive money using their mobile phones, quickening remittance collection.

The new service, which will be branded Z Birr, will allow any holder of a mobile accessory to create a cash balance on the device by depositing funds at agent locations. This cash balance will be transferrable to any other mobile banking user, who can cash the funds at agent locations.

To promote its services, Zemen has also introduced the first hot air balloon advertising campaign, which will carry the Bank’s logo for four years along with up to 12 passengers around the country to Addis Abeba, Bahir Dar, Hawassa, Axum, Lalibela, and Gonder.

The bank signed an agreement with Abyssinia Ballooning Plc, founded in the Netherlands in 2006.

Source: Addis Fortune