News The African Way

Nigeria Launches Domestic Card Scheme in Drive for Cashless Economy

By Iliya Kure, LOS ANGELES

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has launched a domestic card scheme to provide alternative range of payment gateway for Nigerians, and to boost the country’s drive to make Africa’s biggest economy a cashless society.

The card known as “AfriGo” rivals foreign cards like Mastercard and Visa, but CBN says it’s not aimed at replacing the international cards, rather “aimed at domestic consumers whilst also promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost-effective and competitive manner.”

The development is in line with steps taken by CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele in October 2021, when he announced Africa’s first digital currency, the e-naira.

At the virtual launch of AfriGo on January 26, 2023, Emefiele noted that penetration of card payments in Nigeria had grown over the years, but majority of the 200 million citizens were still excluded.

“The challenges that have limited the inclusion of Nigerians include the high cost of card services as a result of foreign exchange requirements of international card schemes and the fact that existing card products do not address local peculiarities of the Nigerian market,” he said.

By this act, Nigeria has joined the ranks of China, Russia, India and Turkey in launching a domestic card scheme.

In a remark at the launch, CBN Deputy Governor (Financial System Stability), Aishah Ahmad, said the Nigerian National domestic card Scheme would lead to the sovereignty of data, saves cost on card transactions, reduce foreign exchange pressure and would present new opportunities for the Nigerian economy.

The card scheme “heralds a new vista of opportunities for the card business, that several countries continue to recognise and leverage as they create their domestic card schemes to augment existing foreign payment card rails,” she said.

According to her, the card scheme also provides an essential platform for further innovation to solve some of the most pressing issues around financial inclusion, SME payments and trade facilitation primarily, supporting the drive for a robust digital economy for the Nigerian market, the African continent and the world.

In an overview of the card, she said the name AfriGO, was birthed in Nigeria with continental aspirations, as ‘AFRI’ means culture, ethnic diversity, bravery, innovation, and growth while “GO” symbolises progress, empowerment, inclusivity, and future-forward amongst others.

Also speaking, the Managing Director of NIBSS, Premier Owoh, listed the security features of the AfriGO card scheme, which includes a smart chip, the CVV Code, and the NQR embedded signatures, amongst others.

In a statement prior to the launch, CBN spokesperson, Osita Nwanisobi, said the scheme would accelerate financial inclusion and deliver lower cost payments services that are more accessible and affordable for Nigerians.

“Nigeria is Africa’s largest and most vibrant economy and the pace of digitisation and innovation, alongside the expansion of mobile penetration and the proactive policy initiatives of the CBN have driven the accelerated adoption of digital financial services.

“Considering the strength and breadth of its banking sector and the rapid growth and transformation of its payments system over the last decade, Nigeria is ideally positioned to successfully launch a national card scheme,” he said.

He statement added; “the CBN recognizes the significant benefits from delivering Africa’s first central bank-driven, domestic card scheme, which when delivered at scale has the potential to become the largest in Africa, and one of the largest in the world.”

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