Yemiru Chanyalew

Long before Ethiopian banks realized the future of banking was digital, it took bold imaginaries to take them on the road. Until recently, Ethiopia’s financial technology (fintech) sector was driven by banks themselves. With no legal framework for fintech companies to operate independently, they needed financial institutions to believe in their proposals and outsource their digital needs.

This was a tough task for early Ethiopian fintech players. Cash was the undisputed king. Navigating the Ethiopian market, from regulations to mindset and cultural attitudes toward technology, the work was not cut out for many people.

But few saw what the future held and were willing to put all their effort into it. One such man was Yemiru Chanyalew, founder of Moneta Technologies, a fintech firm behind one of Ethiopia’s leading mobile wallets, Amole. Humble, optimistic, and visionary, Yemiru was a leading light in Ethiopia’s fintech sector that introduced many innovative banking solutions.

Born in Addis Ababa in 1960, Yemiru was the son of a diplomat who constantly moved. At 18, Yemiru moved to the United States, where he settled and began his voyage into the IT sector.

In 1985 he graduated from Loyola University Chicago in MIS, Math, CS, and Operation Management. Yemiru soon started working for United Airlines, where he developed a database for ticket sales data, pricing, routes, and schedule. In the following two decades, Yemiru joined many technology firms in executive positions under whose leadership saw growth and expansion. 

After 30 years, Yemiru believed it was time to go back home. In 2009, he moved to Ethiopia with his family to build Moneta Technologies, which gave life to Amole.

Developed by Moneta and licensed under Dashen Bank, Amole was launched in 2018. Providing various digital payment solutions such as facilitating payments for utilities, airtime top-up, and payments for retail services, Amole has 2.1 million unique users. Recording over three million transactions, Amole is the third biggest mobile wallet in Ethiopia.

But Yemiru saw Amole as more than a payment facilitator. He believed for there to be a digital economy in its true sense, the money had to stay in digital wallets instead of these platforms merely serving as a bridge for people to send money.

With this, he added many features and products to Amole. Last year, Moneta launched an international eCommerce gateway that allows merchants to receive international payments through Amole, opening new markets for local businesses.

The firm also partnered with other global fintech firms to introduce remittance inflow to a mobile wallet. And just a few months ago, the news was out that Amole was working on digital micro-lending services that allows users to take out loans.

Creating a healthy and thriving working environment, Yemiru was loved by his coworkers. They remember him as an understanding man that focused on finding solutions instead of dwelling on problems. He was also respected in the Ethiopian fintech community who saw him as a pioneer and a passionate advocate.

Yemiru was keen on placing Ethiopia on the digital map. He wanted to show Ethiopia was an attractive market with home gown firms that could offer world-class fintech products.

He partnered with many institutions to highlight this goal by helping in bringing continental tech summits to Addis as well as taking part in local initiatives such as the Ethiopian Fintech Association.

Yemiru was in bed battling illness before he passed away at the age of 62. His funeral was held last week, February 13, 2022. Yemiru is survived by his wife, son, and two daughters.

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