Nigerian smart card plant supports expansion of financial services to poor

Responding to banks’ efforts to reach out to people who do not typically use financial services, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan this week inaugurated the first Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) certified smart card manufacturing plant in sub-Saharan Africa.

The plant, built by Nigeria-based SecureID, will be based in the country's commercial capital, Lagos, and produce mostly payment cards such as credit, debit and prepaid or personalized card services with various combinations of functions including payment (Visa/MasterCard/Verve), photo identification, Mifare contactless access control and biometric match-on cards. It is fully Nigerian-owned and 95 percent of its staff will be composed of local workers. The plant will have annual production capacity for 200 million cards.

“Smart cards or cards with embedded chips are key to our digital existence,” according to a statement from Jonathan. “Consider the everyday uses to which we put various SIM cards, biometric identity cards, and debit and credit cards used in the finance industry. Increasingly, they are becoming part of our personal and corporate staple.”

Jonathan noted that the SecureID project was conceived in collaboration with leaders in the global smart card industry and its products include SIM cards for the telecom sector, debit and credit cards for the financial sector and high security polycarbonate cards for the most sensitive identification needs.

Preliminary estimates indicate that there are currently about 150 million active SIM cards, 110 million biometric ID cards and 15 million credit and debit cards in Nigeria, Jonathan said. As more financial-inclusion schemes, requiring more bank cards, are rolled out and different Nigerian states implement ID projects, the numbers of smart cards in use are expected to experience double-digit growth, he said.

Jonathan implied that the smart card manufacturing project would not have been possible if a level playing field and a basis for better competition between locally manufactured and imported smart cards had not been created.

“Previously, this sort of venture would have been unprofitable. Import tariffs heavily skewed to the advantage of imported finished cards would have made it difficult for local manufacturers to compete on cost,” he said. “A collaborative engagement between the Ministry of Communications Technology and the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment has resulted in a review of the import tariffs on the key inputs for smart card manufacturing.”

SecureID has been working to enable financial inclusion in Nigeria, delivering financial services at affordable costs to people in disadvantaged and low-income segments.

In October, SecureID partnered with Sterling Bank to provide a Biometric Identification Card to bring financial services to the so-called unbanked population. The company’s efforts also support the plan by the country’s central bank plan to reduce Nigeria’s unbanked rate from 46.3 percent to 20 percent by 2020. The company is also PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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