The Central Bank of Nigeria, in collaboration with the NIBSS, has launched a Nigerian national domestic card scheme, AfriGo, as part of its efforts to drive financial inclusion in the country.
At the brand unveiling and virtual launch this morning, the CBN governor Godwin Emefiele also disclosed that the apex bank would no longer pay the charges on domestic card transactions in dollars, effective immediately.
In his keynote remarks, he said
“Your existing cards are fine. You can continue using them, but given that charges by foreign cards are in dollars, we will no longer pay dollars for the charges on those cards.
“We will only pay dollars for charges on transactions that are done outside Nigeria. NIBSS, the CBN and Nigerian banks will work together to see how to segregate those transactions. To ensure that we pay fees or charges for international transactions that are conducted on both domestic cards, Visa or Master Cards, as they are known today.”
“We will bar domestic charges from the Nigerian foreign exchange market at some point in the very near future.”
In her remarks, Mrs Aisha Ahmad, the chairman of NIBSS and deputy Governor at the CBN, reminded attendees that many activities of the CBN and its forward-thinking regulatory stance had offered us unique opportunities in Nigeria to boost cashless transactions, drive financial inclusion, deepen the financial system and promote inclusive economic growth.
“Over the years, NIBBS has been central in some of these developments, given its strategic role as a shared service platform, a critical financial market infrastructure and an independent facilitator of several regulatory initiatives.
“I am sure it is with great national pride that we bear witness to the Nigerian National domestic card scheme launch, the first central bank-led domestic card initiative in Africa. it is a momentous development, not in the least, because it saves costs for the industry, provides new opportunities for the card business, and gives us sovereignty over our data.”
In his keynote remarks, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele expressed pride at the success of the brand unveil and virtual launch of a domestic card scheme because it signals another significant step in the CBN’s drive to ensure a thriving and competitive payment landscape in the country.
Importance of AfriGo to the Nigerian economy
According to the CBN governor, AfriGo is a broad opportunity to integrate the informal segment of our economy, reduce shadow banking, and bring more Nigerians into the formal financial service system with attendant diversification of deposit portfolio, which will further strengthen the stability of our banking industry.
The cashless policy, which commenced in 2012, has created value, engendered competition, and attracted investment into the Nigerian banking and payment ecosystem. We have witnessed the proliferation of products, channels and participants with significantly increased direct foreign investments into the Nigerian payment space.
While the penetration of card payments in Nigeria has grown over the years, many Nigerians are still excluded. The challenges that have limited the inclusion of Nigerians include; the high cost of card services as a result of foreign exchange requirements of international card schemes and the fact that existing card products do not address the local peculiarity of the Nigerian market
Given the noted usage of cards by Nigerians and to deepen penetration, the CBN actively promoted the national domestic card scheme, AfriGo, which would be available to all Nigerians and address the local peculiarities of the Nigerian market. This scheme is an essential plug in the gap which has remained with us since the cashless policy was introduced in 2012.
Nigeria, by the initiative, will be joining countries that have established a domestic card scheme the same and harnessed the transformative benefits for their payments and financial system, particularly for the underbanked.
What this means for other card service providers
The CBN governor further stressed that AfriGo is not meant to discourage international service providers from continuing to provide services in Nigeria. However, it aims to provide more options for domestic consumers while promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost-effective, and competitive manner.
The Nigerian market is vast, and the current participants have done much in the last 12 years to transform the ecosystem. Yet, there is much ground to be covered as millions of Nigerians are without payment cards to complete transactions. The CBN hopes that the launch of AfriGo will help eradicate this issue as soon as possible.
It remains to be seen how these other card service providers would react to the CBN’s decision to stop paying the charges on domestic transactions in dollars.
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