CBN Launches AfriGo, Nigeria’s Domestic Card Scheme

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Nigeria’s Apex bank CBN has gone full throttle on its plans for a national debt card scheme as it launches AfriGo. The scheme was earlier announced at a Banker’s Committee press briefing in October 2022, with the CBN going toe to toe with the various debit and credit card payment schemes available in the Nigerian market.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, believes the move will push for more financial inclusion and concentrate card financial data in Nigeria, while also serving as a symbol of national pride for those who adopt it.

He said, “The national domestic card avails us the sovereignty of our data. Secondly, it comes at lower costs,”. Nigeria is one of the biggest markets for card payments, with the latest annual figures for card transactions in Nigeria hitting $18.2 bn in 2021. Companies like Mastercard, Visa, and Verve benefit a lot from the large Nigerian market.

These global companies’ main job is to provide central payment networks, which are linked to debit and credit cards to enable card transactions with these cards. The card can now be issued to customers by banks and financial institutions as well as shopping malls.

The CBN in conjunction with the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) is hoping to break this system by establishing a card payment scheme that could quickly dominate the fast-growing Nigerian market. CBN also added that the cards scheme will function on reduced operating costs and optimized foreign exchange usage, unlike the other cards in the market.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele added that “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,”.

While speaking further on payment of forex. He said “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,”

The CBN domestic card scheme which is one of the first of its kind in Africa is not new to some top countries like China, India, Brazil, and Turkey. Countries like India, make use of Ruepay, which is a government-backed card payment scheme that has taken over India’s market due to its efficiency, low cost, and policy backing, to which 600 million Ruepay cards have been issued in India.

The managing director/CEO of NIBSS, Mr. Premier Oiwoh mentioned that the scheme was designed to attend to the pain points of Nigerians who make use of card payments and encourage Nigerians with its exciting offers.

Like India’s Ruepay, if AfriGo records huge success in transactions, this would be of huge benefit to Nigerians and reduce the cost of payments for debit cards and for its maintenance, however, there is the question of reliability and interoperability, this can only be tested when the card enters the Nigerian market.

Emefiele also spoke on the role the domestic card scheme will play in competing in the Nigerian market with globally accepted cards like Visa and Mastercard, 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.”

While adding that “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,”.

The deployment and monitoring of the adoption of the national domestic card scheme will be handled by AfriGopay Financial Services Limted (AFSL), a NIBSS-affiliated organisation.