MasterCard, Nigeria Get Smart About Cashless Future

What's Next In Payments®
4:48 PM EDT May 20th, 2013

MasterCard made major news earlier this month, announcing the rollout of 13 million MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Cards in one of Africa’s fastest-developing nations, Nigeria.  

Africa has never seen a card rollout program of this size, and with new payment capabilities, the introduction symbolizes more than just historical precedence for Nigerians. The additional payment scheme also marks another step taken towards to the country’s vision of a cashless society. spoke with MasterCard Sub-Saharan Division President, Daniel Monehin to find out more about the financial system in Nigeria, the identity card program and the details behind such a large rollout.

Monehin laughed when questioned such a large rollout in Nigeria.

He responded, “You’re right. Thirteen million is more than the pilots of several African countries. But if you’re dealing with the largest African nation and the most populous, estimated at the population of 160 to 180 million people, and the estimated people in the category that will receive the national ID card, then that’s just a little over 10 percent of it. So it’s a good size as a pilot, but it just reflects the size of the opportunity that exists in that country.”

All Nigerian citizens ages 16-and-up receive an identity card, as do those of age who’ve lived in Nigeria for more than two years. We asked Monehin which consumers would be given access to test the pilot scheme, and how they would be issued.

“The beauty of this is that this is a multi-partner initiative. There is very strong support from the government of Nigeria, as was witnessed at the announcement in Cape Town at the World Economic Forum by the Minister of Finance,” Monehin explained. “Eight financial institutions are being chosen to drive this, and all of them are MasterCard members.  So there’s a combination of efforts in driving this, this product and solution, into the market.”

He continued, “But to answer your question, now, the Minister of Finance did say that she is very interested in including the federal government pensioners to start with onto this initial 13 million platform. The rest of them will be identified as we get closer to the launch.”

Monehin described the new payment solutions, and explained that MasterCard is giving more citizens access to financial tools. They have been discussing plans to use the card as a way to provide social benefits, remittance transfers and receive salary payments.

He proudly explained other possible programs that may be integrated onto the card after the rollout.

“They have plans to activate the driver’s license, the transport, the transit, health, pension, insurance and tax on it as well.  So the other beauty of the card is that it’s expandable. It’s flexible. Without reissuing the card, those applications can be turned on and the citizens can begin to use those cards for different solutions,” he stated.

Monehins said that although the program is still in its infancy, he expects other African countries to simulate Nigeria’s Identity Smart Card platform soon.

“Well, since this has gone live, we have had inquiries from almost 10 countries in Africa, but Nigeria is the first to go. This is becoming the gold standard for combining the unique identification,” Monehin said.

“The development of consumer finance, of personal consumer finance has been stifled in this part of the world, and everything is on cash-and-carry. There’s no way to uniquely identify credit history and for the credit bureaus to have real reliable data. Nigeria is the first to go, but others are now showing very keen interest in this and asking for help to get there.”

To hear more Monehin on the Nigerian Identity Smart Card program and MasterCard’s involvement in the country, listen to the full podcast below. 


*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.

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