CBN, NIBSS Launch AfriGo, Africa’s First National Payment Card Scheme
On the 26th of January 2023, the CBN made good on its plan to introduce a national domestic card scheme. The card was first announced in October 2022, and it is named AfriGo card. The CBN aims to make its way into the payment cards market in Nigeria breaking the oligopoly of Mastercard, Visa, and Verve by Interswitch.
During the virtual launch event, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, announced that the new initiative aims to increase financial inclusion. As well as centralize card financial information in the country, while also promoting a sense of national pride for those who adopt it.
Also Read: Nigeria’s E-Payment Transactions Reaches an All-Time High of N387 Trillion in 2022
He stated, “The national domestic card avails us the sovereignty of our data. Secondly, it comes at lower costs.”
With this card scheme, Nigeria joins the rank of India, China, Turkey, Brazil, and Russia as countries that have implemented a national payments card scheme. And notably, Nigeria will be the first country in Africa to do so. Emefiele stated that the introduction of these cards will not restrict the use of existing international cards but will provide additional choices for Nigerians.
Speaking on the benefits of the AfriGo card, Emefiele stated that AfriGo would help to integrate the informal economy into the country’s financial system. He added that this will decrease the expenses incurred by Nigerian banks in producing cards and decrease the dependence on foreign currency to obtain payment cards.
Emefiele said, “At this time when foreign exchange challenges persist globally, it is important for me to say that we have come up with this card to ensure that all online card transactions will now, effective immediately, begin to go on the Nigerian national domestic system.”
The CBN Governor also spoke on the charging of foreign currency for local transactions by the stakeholders in the Nigerian cards market. He stated, “NIBSS and CBN will work together to make sure foreign exchange is charged for only international transactions made on Visa and Mastercards as we have it now. This is so because many of the cards we use currently charge in foreign currency. However, with the launch of the national domestic card, all domestic transactions are to be carried out on the national domestic card scheme.”
Mr. Emefiele also allayed fears that the scheme could stifle competition from global players in the Nigerian cards market. He said, “The Nigerian market is vast and the current participants have done so much in the last 12 years to transform the ecosystem. Yet there is much ground to cover as millions of Nigerians are still without cards to consummate transactions.”
“I am convinced that the national domestic card scheme will make this a reality in the coming months. We can no longer neglect the vast majority of Nigerians.” He added.
Also Read: CBN Promotes Myth of Import Dependence, Asks Nigerians to Consume Less of Foreign Goods
Mr. Premier Owioh, CEO of NIBSS also spoke during the event. He emphasized that the program was created to address the unique challenges of Nigeria’s payment industry and offer tailored and advanced solutions.
The Deputy Governor of the CBN and Chairperson of NIBSS, Aishah Ahmad also spoke during the event.
“With the implementation of the National Domestic Card Scheme, the industry will reap potential benefits which include improved transaction security, better pricing opportunities, reduced demand for FX and less pressure on the Naira, locally relevant partnerships and offerings developing local skills in card and payment space.
“Other advantages include a boost to financial inclusion, value retention, flexible and innovative scale, and a source of national pride.”
Mrs. Aishah also highlighted the global card ownership statistics report, noting that approximately 32% of the Nigerian adult population own debit cards, and only 3% own credit cards. The report places Nigeria as 75th in the debit card-to-population ratio and 114th in the world in the credit card-to-population ratio.
Speaking further, “Nigeria has a low card-to-population ratio when it is benchmarked globally, and this has a major impact on the government’s drive to aggressively boost financial inclusion.”
AfriGopay Financial Services Limited, a subsidiary of NIBSS and authorized by the CBN, is responsible for the deployment of the AfriGo card. The company is tasked with implementing and overseeing the National Domestic Card Scheme for Nigeria.
Also Read: About the CBN’s National Domestic Card
RuPay, the Indian payment service system was created almost 11 years ago by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). As of 2020, more than 600 million cards had been issued by RuPay with the service controlling more than 60% of the cards market in India. It is expected that if AfriGo can recreate that level of success in Nigeria, it would revolutionize the payment system in Nigeria as Nigerians will pay far lesser for credit and debit cards.