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MasterCard Sees Opportunity With Nigerian e-ID Cards

There’s a lot of untapped potential in the Nigerian commerce market — which is growing — and MasterCard has discovered a marketing niche with the country’s national high-tech e-ID card pilot project.

MasterCard is looking toward the growing trend of global payments by getting involved in Nigeria’s card pilot project that could give it an edge over Visa in a market that has more than 170 million people.

“In August, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan launched the pilot phase of the country’s new National Electronic Identity, or e-ID, card.,” an African Marketing Confederation article said. More than just an identity document, the card will capture everything about users – from their driver’s license details to voter registration information, tax, pension and health insurance data. Plus, because it is being rolled out in partnership with MasterCard, it also has an electronic payments functionality and is claimed to be the biggest financial inclusion program in Africa.”

The article, citing a Bloomberg statistic, said: “only about 30 percent of the West African country’s inhabitants have access to bank accounts.” National ID cards didn’t catch on during the first attempt 10 years ago because of corruption issues, but the new move could bolster the banking numbers in the emerging nation.

The pilot project will involve issuing 13 million MasterCard-branded ID cards and eventually deliver 100 million more cards out to those 16 and older. While the government favors the concept of the e-ID, MasterCard’s role in the project has sparked some controversy. But MasterCard has reportedly denied the company is trying to turn the ID card project into a branding project and said that “the MasterCard brand displayed on the card is what makes the electronic payment component of the e-ID card accepted as a means of payment.”

Still, there’s been some backlash.

“Every international card scheme has to follow the rules and regulations of their (originating) country. There is a huge risk associated in selecting MasterCard International, a foreign company, for such a critical project as the national identity management scheme,” Victor Alaofin, CEO of Nigerian technology company Ryte Internet Technologies, told ‘Business Day Nigeria’. “If Nigeria should have a fallout with the U.S. government, payment transactions could be blocked as part of sanctions.”

MasterCard, however, sees its role with the ID cards in Nigeria similar to programs it has worked on in Mexico.

“By supporting governments around the world with electronic payment programs, we are helping to save money and improve efficiencies. But more importantly, together we are opening up a world of inclusion for those who have previously not had access to traditional financial services,” Antonio Junco, President of MasterCard Mexico and Central America, told Technology Times.

Michael Miebach, MasterCard President for the Middle East and Africa Region was quoted in the Financial Times: “Approaching payment infrastructure challenges across the continent requires a new model, [one] where we as a payments technology company partner with governments, banks, merchants, NGOs and other technology companies at a country level. And where, as a result, doing well and doing good go together.”

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