The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday launched the National Domestic Card Scheme called AfriGo to operate alongside foreign cards like Mastercard and Visa.
Speaking at the virtual launch, Emefiele ordered the elimination of dollar charges on all domestic cards and online transactions.
He said all transactions on existing local bank cards must, therefore, be routed through ‘AfriGo.’
Emefiele clarified that the CBN’s effort was not to stop international card service providers like Mastercard and Visa in Nigeria.
“Rather, it is aimed at providing more options for domestic consumers while also promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost-effective, and competitive manner,” he stressed.
AfriGo, according to him, is owned by CBN and Nigerian banks adding that Nigeria was joining China, Russia, India and Turkey in launching a domestic card scheme.
“Rather, it (AfriGo) is aimed at providing more options for domestic consumers whilst also promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost effective and competitive manner,” he stressed.
The CBN governor pointed out that at a time when foreign exchange challenges persist globally, the apex bank came up with the domestic card scheme to, “ensure that all card transactions, online transactions where you’re using cards will now effective immediately, begin to go on the Nigerian National Domestic Card system.”
Emefiele, however, clarified that though there was nothing wrong with existing local bank cards, customers are at liberty to continue using them.
“But given that charges by foreign cards are in dollars, we will no longer pay dollars for charges on those cards.
“All domestic card transactions that are going to be conducted in Nigeria will have to be through the Nigerian domestic card.
“We would only pay dollars for charges on transactions that are done with this domestic card or foreign cards outside Nigeria.”
Emefiele also disclosed that the CBN would collaborate with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), Nigerian banks, and other electronic payment operators to see, “how to segregate those transactions to ensure that we would only make charges or fees for international transactions that are conducted on these cards or the Visa or MasterCard as they are used today.”
The CBN governor insisted that while there was no preference for any particular domestic card, “we don’t need to have our domestic cards but most importantly is that we do not have foreign exchange, and we would bar payment of charges for domestic transactions from the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market at some point in the very near future.”
He said given the limited usage of cards by Nigerians and in a bid to deepen penetration, the central bank actively promoted the national domestic card scheme which would be accessible to all Nigerians and also address local peculiarities.
He said the scheme represented an important plug in the gap that has remained with the system since the cashless policy was introduced.
He said the unveiling signaled another major step in the country’s drive toward achieving a thriving and competitive payments landscape in the country.
Emefiele said the cashless policy has created value, engendered competition, and attracted investment into the Nigerian banking and payments ecosystem, adding that “We have witnessed the proliferation of products, channels, and participants with significantly increased foreign direct investments into the Nigerian payments space.”
He said the CBN had over time focused attention on the robust development of financial service touch points including the ATMs, POS terminals, and agent networks, explaining that the success of the shared agent network expansion facility has led to growth in the number of agents to about 1.5 million across the federation with the capacity to accept card payments from Nigerians.
In her remarks, the deputy governor, financial system stability at the CBN, Mrs. Aisha Ahmad, said the AfriGo scheme would lead to the sovereignty of data, cost saving on card transactions, reduce foreign exchange pressure and present new opportunities for the Nigerian economy.
Ahmad, who is also the chairman, Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), further said the card scheme “heralds a new vista of opportunities for the card business, that several countries continue to recognise and leverage as they create their domestic card schemes to augment existing foreign payment card rails.”
According to her, the card scheme also provides an essential platform for further innovation to solve some of the most pressing issues around financial inclusion, SME payments and trade facilitation primarily, supporting the drive for a robust digital economy for the Nigerian market, the African continent and the world.
Giving an overview of the card, she said AfriGo has continental aspiration saying “Afri” means culture, ethnic diversity, bravery, innovation, and growth while “Go” symbolises progress, empowerment, inclusivity, and future-forward amongst others.