Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday unveiled and officially launched the country’s national card scheme.
Speaking at the launch, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said the event marks another important step in the campaign to ensure a prosperous and competitive payments landscape in Nigeria.
“I am indeed very pleased that the Nigerian banking community has accepted the challenge to further strengthen the national payment system through the implementation of a national card scheme,” he said.
“The Cashless Policy, which began in 2012, signals our common drive to strengthen the national payment system and deepen the use of electronic platforms in Nigeria. In line with the National Payment System Strategy, the CBN has deliberately engaged with relevant stakeholders to improve the national payment infrastructure through initiatives such as the Bank Verification Number (BVN), Real-time gross settlement system (LBTR), shared agent network installation (SANEF), Regulatory Sandbox, Open banking and eNaira, the digital currency of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to name a few.”
The national domestic card is expected to compete with Visa and Mastercard, the main players in the market.
Visa and Mastercard have dominated the card payment market in Nigeria. While they remain convenient, especially for international transactions, domestic cards are expected to better serve the unbanked market and increase competition within the payments landscape.
The cards should also have the ability to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on foreign-owned financial services companies.
The bank, last year, announced that it will launch the card scheme this January through the Nigerian Interbank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) in association with the Bankers Committee.
On Thursday, Emefiele said the cashless policy created value, created competition and attracted investment to Nigeria’s banking and payments ecosystem.
“We have witnessed the proliferation of products, channels and participants with significantly higher foreign direct investment in the Nigerian payments space,” he noted.
“Over time, CBN has also turned its attention to developing robust financial services touchpoints, including ATMs, POS Terminals and agent networks. The success of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility has led to a growth in the number of agents to around 1.5 million across the Federation with the ability to accept card payments from Nigerians.”
According to him, many Nigerians remain excluded despite the penetration of card payments in Nigeria over the years. The CBN chief stated that challenges that have limited the inclusion of Nigerians include the high cost of card services as a result of the foreign exchange requirements of international card schemes and the failure of existing card products to address the local peculiarities of the Nigerian market.
“Given the limited use of cards by Nigerians and in an attempt to deepen penetration, the Bank actively promoted the national national card scheme which will be accessible to all Nigerians and will also address our local peculiarities.
“This Scheme is therefore an important plugin in the gap that has stayed with us since the cashless policy was introduced.”
Nigeria, for this initiative, will join countries like Porcelain, Russia, Turkey Y India who have launched national card schemes and reaped the transformative benefits for their respective payments and financial systems, particularly for the unbanked.
Emefiele said that the establishment of the card scheme is in line with global trends.
The effort, he said, is not a search to prevent international service providers from continuing to provide services in Nigeria. Rather, its goal is to provide more choice to domestic consumers while promoting service delivery in a more innovative, profitable, and competitive manner.
“CBN is committed to a robust, efficient and secure national payment system and welcomes innovation from both domestic companies and foreign investors. The Nigerian market is huge and the current players have done a lot in the last twelve years to transform the ecosystem. However, there is a long way to go as millions of Nigerians still do not have payment cards to carry out transactions,” he noted.
“We can no longer neglect the vast majority of Nigerians whose daily payments require micropayments. We need to capture them in national statistics to better understand their transaction dynamics and adequately target interventions in that sector of the economy.