Written by 9:41 am Features, News Views: 12

Ethiopia’s Largest Bank Recoups $10 Million of $14 Million Overpayment

The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), the nation’s biggest lender, has managed to reclaim around $10 million from customers who unintentionally received excess funds due to a technical error last month.

On March 16th, a systems malfunction at CBE caused customers’ account balances to be inflated, leading to a surge of unexpected withdrawals totaling $14 million before the issue was detected. Rumors of the glitch quickly spread via social media and word-of-mouth, prompting long lines at ATMs as people rushed to take advantage.

While initial reports estimated potential losses up to $40 million, CBE President Abe Sano stated the actual amount was lower and is still being calculated. The bank has already recovered around $10 million, or 75% of the overpaid sum.

Sano revealed that university students made up the bulk of the mistaken withdrawals after learning of the flaw. Three universities have instructed their students to return any excess funds.

The bank is now warning that customers who fail to voluntarily remit the overpayments will face legal consequences, as CBE has identified the individuals involved. However, many have already proactively returned the money.

“Their digital banking footprint means we know exactly who made these transactions,” said Sano. “They will be held accountable if they don’t cooperate.”

CBE has over 38 million account holders and controls nearly two-thirds of deposits in Ethiopia. The cause of March’s systems error remains undisclosed, though the bank maintains it was a glitch rather than a cyber attack and that all accounts are secure.

The incident underscores the vulnerabilities faced by African banks to accidental overpayments, fraud, and cyber threats which have cost other major lenders millions in recent years. Safeguarding digital banking platforms is crucial as online and mobile transactions become ubiquitous across the continent.

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