Last week at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Cape Town, South Africa the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and MasterCard announced their collaboration with plans to roll-out an initial 13 million MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Cards with electronic payment capability.

The 13 million cards will form part of a pilot program which will see the West African country’s citizens who are 16 years and older and those who have been residents in Nigeria for more than two years being issued with the new National Identity Smart Cards.

This announcement by Nigeria sees it following in South Africa’s footsteps as the country’s Department of Home Affairs has announced that it intends starting to issue smart ID cards to citizens starting in July, 2013 at a rate of  3 million smart ID cards a year.

It is hoped in both cases that the smart ID cards will help curb the prevalent fabrication of false identity documents in both Nigeria and South Africa as they will be embedded with microchips and with the South African smart ID cards being reported to incorporate biometric features that will also prevent identity theft as a result of the fraudulent use of a stolen or lost smart ID card.

There is also a notable difference between the South African and Nigerian smart ID cards with the West African country’s smart ID cards coming with immediate payment capability’s courtesy of MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology. The cards are also reported to come loaded with 12 other applications.

In making the announcement Michael Miebach, President, Middle East and Africa for  MasterCard said “Today’s announcement is the first phase of an unprecedented project in terms of scale and scope for Nigeria,”

He added “MasterCard has been a firm supporter of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Cashless Policy as we share a vision of a world beyond cash.  From the program’s inception, we have provided the Federal Government of Nigeria with global insights and best practices on how electronic payments can enable economic growth and create a more financially inclusive economy”.

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