Africa’s largest financial inclusion program entered its pilot phase this week, with Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan receiving his own MasterCard branded national eID card.
The financial inclusion pilot will see the Nigerian Identity Management Commision (NIMC) issuing similar eID cards to 13 million Nigerian citizens. Each card comes outfitted with 13 applications, including biometric identification features from Cryptovision and MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology, both of which are key factors in Nigeria’s financial inclusion roadmap.
In June, MasterCard named biometric authentication as a major factor in this kind of program. MasterCard is deeply invested in global financial inclusion and the company’s president and CEO, Ajay Banga, has been vocal about the private sector’s role in providing options for the underserved third of the Earth’s population (approximately 2.5 billion adults worldwide are without even a bank account).
In addition to providing financial services to everyone with an eID card, NIMC’s mandate is to create, maintain and operate Nigeria’s first central National Identity Database, providing proof of ID for Nigerian citizens over the age of 16.
“I am happy that this important milestone of the rollout of the National Identity Management System has been realized today,” said President Jonathan during a celebratory event marking the occasion. “I am impressed with the quality of the eID card and the work of the corporate partners that made it possible. I commend especially MasterCard, and Access Bank Plc, as well as the Commission for achieving a world-class product.”
The project doesn’t end with national ID and payments, the commission is currently working with several government agencies to integrate all identity databases into a single shared services platform. drivers licenses, voter registration, health insurance, taxes, SIM and the National Pension Commission will all eventually be harmonized.
Looking strictly at the financial benefits, the eID cards allow Nigerian citizens to pay for goods and services, deposit funds, receive social benefits, save money and more thanks to the biometric verification features. Because the prepaid payment technology is powered y MasterCard, the Nigerian eID card is accepted internationally as well. Additionally, because the card enables electronic payments, citizens are given an incentive to use it, as there is currently a fee associated with using cash meant to encourage the use of next generation currency options.
“By supporting the Nigerian Government in the implementation of a world-class and innovative electronic payments program, we are helping them to reduce the costs of cash to the economy and society, improve efficiencies and prevent fraud and corruption,” explains Daniel Monehin, division president of Sub-Saharan Africa, MasterCard. “More importantly, we are opening up a world of financial inclusion to millions of Nigerians and improving lives.”
Once the pilot program has been completed, NIMC has plans to expand the project, rolling out eID cards to more than 100 million Nigerian citizens.