Why We Are Involved in Nigeria e-ID Card Project – MasterCard
Genesis of Mastercard involvement
MasterCard is working with NIMC and many other partners on the e-ID scheme. As you know in Nigeria we’ve been trying to do a national ID card for the past 20 years. In 2007 the government came up with an idea to say let’s look at National ID from a holistic approach; from an identity management perspective; having different other functionalities via identity management.
It is the government’s plan to store biometric information on a smart card because we know that this smart card can do more than one thing. The plan at that time was to have 13 different applications on the card. One of them is the biometric application; storing your biometric information on the card, then another is payment, but asides these two there are 11 other things that the card can do eventually, and five of them have been launched with it.
The card will have an e-Voters outlet on it where they’ll store your information for voting, also information for drivers licence and international passport. As a matter of fact and as demonstrated by NIMC at the launch, when you’re travelling out, at the airport and you swipe this card to check if your passport is valid, and when you swipe your national ID on that machine it will bring out all the information that is on your international. For seven years NIMC has been trying to get funding and finding partners. MasterCard is just one of the partners, there are other partners and we’re just one of the partners for the financial application. We’re working with the banks; Access Bank being the only one for now, we’re also working with Nigeria financial institutions and Nigeria technology service providers.
We got involved in this project two years ago, preliminaries for the project has been on-going; NIMC has been shopping for different partners. When they came to us we saw an alignment in their vision and ours.
We also are trying to achieve in our own way financial inclusion, not because the government is saying it but because we know the evils of cash; life becomes even easier when you do electronic transaction. We’re always looking for scenarios where we can promote electronic transaction and support financial inclusion.
Importance of National Identity Number
The reason NIMC is doing this project is to be able to give everybody in the country their NIN; the number that identifies and separates you from another. I cannot change it and nobody can share it with me. And you know this is a way of checkmating those who go to collect loans from different banks with different names and also a way of checkmating those who collect other people’s social benefits because each person will have his/her own number which is unique to you. This is the core of the project.
When I go to collect my NIN, I know that NIMC will issue me an eID card and I know that the card can do more than just my biometric but it can also do payment. The information you give at the pre-enrolment centre is stored securely on their system and used to generate your NIN which cannot expire even when the card expires. It is just a way of giving the Nigerian an opportunity to use it. The card will not be linked to my bank account; it is a virtual account that has nothing to do with your regular bank account; it is the money that you put into it that you spend, so if you don’t put in any money then you have nothing to spend.
The payment side has to be activated and you’ll be thought that when you go to collect your card. Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to use it, but we hope that a lot of people that don’t have bank account use it. The most important thing here though is the NIN. It is like buying a house and you say the only thing you want to use there is maybe kitchen and as a woman that’s the most important part of the house for me, which is like the NIN and if that’s the only thing you want to use your eID for then it’s okay. But there are other spaces in the house; so NIMC wants us to put the other spaces into good use since we’ve bought the whole house; so the whole house is that smart card which can do a lot of things.
I can decide when I collect my card that I only want to use the eID part of it which is used just to verify your identity. Some other person may decide to also use it to validate his/her ID when we get to that stage during domestic travel, instead of using any only photo ID since the passport information is already on it, you can use it in that scenario. Another may want a prepaid account for subscription or anything else and the money you want to use you don’t want it to be with your regular bank account; you can then fund the card for that purpose which you want to use it for. Some people may decide to use the other functionalities on it but just because there’s payment on it does not mean that we’ll force people to link it to their bank account.
Why include payment on the card if it’s not compulsory to use it?
We have 70 per cent of Nigerians unbanked and if you ask the CBN and all those involved, they want everyone to be banked even up to the woman selling Pumpkin leaf. Banks in Nigeria have been in existence for over 100 years and less than 40 million people have a bank account. For some reason people are not going to the regular banks to open account; this is a way of bringing the bank to them, the intention is that everyone uses it. It is better for me to state that it is not compulsory but it is hoped and recommended because you have to know that everyone has the right to do what they want to do. If it becomes compulsory people will say they forced them to use MasterCard and Access Bank and that is not the intention.
What we are saying is that there’s a viable instrument out here that we believe if used properly will help solve a lot of problems we have with financial inclusion and I like the way you’re thinking about it. If people like you can speak up to say let’s give this card a chance and use it to see how this card can help us progress then we can go in the right direction.
Thirteen million people to access financial services in the pilot phase of the program
For this NIMC is the de facto leader, they’re the ones taking the decision. Yes, 13 million is less than 10 per cent of everyone and we’re a 170 million people, now the government has said that this card is only going to be issued to people who are 16 years and above, and the government has said that there are a little over a hundred million people in that category. So this 13 million being the pilot I believe that now it is going to be a representative sample and I know for sure that it’s not going to be in Lagos because right now NIMC is registering across Nigeria both in the rural and urban areas. There is even the mobile registration van going around and registering people.
I believe that it is going to be a representative sample and I know that the intention is not to make it urban alone. It is not only for those with white collar jobs but it is mixed across all career forms that make up the country. As a matter of fact one of the projects that they’re going to be working on in this pilot phase as was announced by the Minister of Agriculture is an agriculture project where they’ll be working with farmers and if this is so, it cannot be Lagos or the urban area alone. It is not an elitist product; it is for every Nigerian.
Issue of connectivity
To get the debit card, it has to be issued to you by a bank and they have the systems that monitor the card to make sure that you have enough money, the card is working properly and showing me all the transactions I’ve done, all that has to do with connectivity. My bank works with a service provider in Nigeria and there are many of them e.g. Inter switch, UPSL etc. Those ones work with NIBSS; our central switch and NIBSS themselves need connectivity. As a matter of fact MasterCard as a network all around the world is 100 per cent secure in terms of connectivity because we’re never down. The reason we can’t afford to be down is because we control about two billion cards around the world and many people depend on us to pay their children school fees, put food on the table etcetera, but we work with different partners to bring the service to you the end user, and all our partners are affected by the local infrastructure here and you and I know how the infrastructure is.
Regarding connectivity everything we do is riding on telecoms either the GPRS which drives the PoS terminals because they use SIM card which uses data and if you’re trying to access data on your mobile phone, that same data is what most of the PoS are also using to work. But some of them use LAN just like your computer cable and some use Wi-Fi. So payment in Nigeria is affected by our infrastructure in Nigeria. What I’ll say is that there’s a lot of responsibility that rests with governments and government agencies to make sure that we have 24 hours electricity, to make sure that the quality of service we get from telecommunication providers increases, but we know that a lot is being done in that direction because the NCC is always holding the telcos to improve on their QoS and we also know that the government has come up with the Discos and Gencos to privatise power to make it more efficient. We’re a long way from where we should be but we’re on the right path to getting it done.
When the government shared the idea with us, even though we were the last, we keyed into the vision and we invested our technology to make it happen, we raised our hand to say count us in, we want to work on this. When it was launched we heard the DG say that the plan is to eventually invite other different partners to work on this, because we’ve existed in countries where there are different other partners, we’ve worked in interoperability with them and we have no doubt that when it becomes open to other people we’ll be able to work well with them.
We’ve played a lead now because at least a lot more people are now showing interest. A lot of Nigerians will not know for how long the government has been looking for partners for this. We’re happy to work with NIMC and any other person they’ll choose to work with.
MasterCard report on inclusive growth potential and urbanisation in Africa
We launched that report in June this year. It is about inclusive growth; one of the values we try to add to our customers who are the banks and the government in some cases is thought leadership, because we have the privilege of working in many economies and we have over 25,000 financial institutions around the world that we work with.
When you’re in the heart of commerce you see a lot of things and have access to a lot of information, what we do is use such information to create a thought leadership and relay that message back to our customers to say this is another part of the economy that we’re not looking at.
We started commissioning this study to compare African cities against each the other and what we were measuring was inclusive growth. Inclusive growth in the layman’s form that I can understand is not only when a country is growing; let’s say a country is growing year on year at 10 per cent which is very good when you’re comparing economies in the world, but what is the personal GDP of each individual if it is growing at the same rate; it doesn’t have to be 10 per cent but if it is growing positively then that’s inclusive growth; it is growth that captures everybody and every part of the economy.
So we were comparing cities, not only the GDP but across the index of inclusive growth; we’re looking at different indices, how are the people doing, what is the state of governance in that country, is the country really a democracy; can people speak up? We looked at 64 cities and compared their economies. Some people came to talk to us so what we did was to share the result of that study. We do this every year as part of our thought leadership series and we’re already planning for next year.