Nigeria marches into a smart identity card

Nigeria stole the show at the World Economic Forum for Africa in Cape Town by announcing the launch of its national identity smartcard pilot programme and tagging it as the largest initiative of its kind on the African continent.

After toying around the smart identity card idea, South Africa has promised to launch a roll out during the second half of this year. During her budget vote speech this week, home affairs minister Naledi Pandor said “We are working hard to ensure we are able to issue the smart ID card in a phased implementation from the third quarter (July-September)”.

“We will begin issuing the Smart Card from 27 Home Affairs regional offices that have been provided with the capacity for live capture. Over the next three years, we will install live capture in all our offices. This will enable the department to issue smart ID cards to all South African citizens over the next five to seven years and to finally get rid of the green ID book”.

Powered by MasterCard, the Nigerian National Identity Smart Card, with 13 applications, has potential to trigger an economic revolution in the most populous country on the African continent. The pilot programme promises a roll out of 13 million MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Cards with electronic payment capability as a pilot program. In maturity the initiative promises to open up access of critical services, financial and welfare, to millions who were previously excluded.

Chris ‘E Onyemenam, the Director General and Chief Executive of the National Identity Management Commission, said “We have chosen MasterCard to be the payment technology provider for the initial rollout of the National Identity Smart Card project because the Company has shown a commitment to furthering financial inclusion through the reduction of cash in the Nigerian economy.”

He added “MasterCard has pioneered large scale card schemes that combine biometric functionality with electronic payments and we want to capitalize on their experience in this field to make our program rollout a sustainable success for the country and for the continent.”

A statement announcing the programme said applications of the smartcard include MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology that will provide cardholders with the safety, convenience and reliability of electronic payments. “This will have a significant and positive impact on the lives of theseNigerians who have not previously had access to financial services”.

The Project will have Access Bank Plc as the pilot issuer bank for the cards and Unified Payment Services Limited (Unified Payments) as the payment processor. Other issuing banks will include United Bank for Africa, Union Bank, Zenith, Skye Bank, Unity Bank, Stanbic, and First Bank.

The smartcard also incorporates the Driver’s License, Voters Registration, Health Insurance, Tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM)

The statement said a cardholder can deposit funds on the card, receive social benefits, pay for goods and services at any of the 35 million MasterCard acceptance locations globally, withdraw cash from all ATMs that accept MasterCard.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy in Nigeria, said the initiative will bring all the citizens on a common platform for interacting with the various government agencies and for transacting electronically.

Michael Miebach, President, Middle East and Africa, MasterCard said the announcement is the first phase of an unprecedented project in terms of scale and scope for Nigeria,” said. “MasterCard has been a firm supporter of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Cashless Policy as we share a vision of a world beyond cash”.

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