News Column

Economic Benefits of New National E-ID Card

September 3, 2014

Emma Okonji writes on the economic importance of the newly launched national electronic identity card, designed as a primary database for all government departments, and can also be used for financial transactions

Last Thursday was historic for Nigeria when President Goodluck Jonathan launched the country's biometric electronic identity (e-ID) card. The e-ID card replaces the initial identity card that was launched 10 years ago without biometric and electronic features that would have given it real economic value.

The newly launched e-ID card has so much economic value that will further enhance national development in the areas of single database for easy and quick access to information as well as online financial transactions. Apart from using it as a means of national identity, the card is also designed to serve as a personal database repository and payment card, all embedded in the single electronic card.

Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the agency driving the e-ID scheme in Nigeria, Chris Onyemenam said the card comes with multifunctional features, which allow the cardholder to use it as a means of identity and for carrying out financial transactions, using any bank's Automated Teller Machine (ATM). This was proved right when Jonathan used his e-ID card to carryout financial transactions as soon as he was issued with the card, during the launch in Abuja.

The card can also be used for electronic signatures, biometric on-card verification and other applications.

The card, which would be issued to all Nigerians who have successfully enrolled for the National Identification Number (NIN), has five applications already activated at issuance with a built-in capacity to host more applications on request.

The launch became a remarkable milestone for the country and the National Identity Management System (NIMS). It was also a huge achievement in the overall objectives of NIMC, which has the responsibility to create, maintain and operate the national identity database.

Card Features The new card shows a person's photograph, name, age and unique ID number, and 10 fingerprints. All these are scanned during enrolment of the cardholder.

The details are intended to ensure that there are no duplicates on the system.

Pleased with the efforts put in by NIMC in ensuring smooth registration and issuance of the national electronic card, Jonathan said the e-ID scheme would be the primary database for all government departments. According to him, by the time all government staff members are captured and issued with the card, it would become easy for government to access the data of any worker, irrespective of the Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA).

The card, according to NIMC, can also be used as voters' card for every election in the country, apart from being used for electronic signatures, electronic payments, biometric on-card verification, among other applications.

"The card is not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card, all in your pocket," Jonathan said at the launch in Abuja.

Economic importance speaking on the economic importance of the card, Jonathan said "I have taken keen interest in this project, primarily because of the pervasive impact it can have on every facet of the socio-economic fabric of our dear nation." According to Division President of sub-Saharan Africa of MasterCard, Daniel Monehin, the national e-ID card would break down one of the most significant barriers to financial inclusion and proof of identity.

He said the broader economic impact of the card would be felt as the previously unbanked and under-banked would be able to gain access to the mainstream economy because the visibility of their assets allows them to build a financial history and establish credit-worthiness with financial institutions.

"Using the card as a payment tool, Nigerians can deposit funds, receive social benefits, save, or engage in many other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments with the extra security assurance that biometric verification provides. They can also pay for goods and services and withdraw cash at millions of merchants and ATMS that accept MasterCard payment cards in Nigeria and in more than 210 countries and territories globally," Monehin said.

Going by the statistics of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that only about 30 per cent of the country's 167 million people are banked, while 70 per cent are unbanked, the national e-ID card will sure help in providing access to financial transactions to as many Nigerians that would be issued with the card, since it could also be used for financial transactions at ATMs. If this is achieved, it would no doubt reduce the percentage of unbanked and boost financial inclusion, which the CBN is trying to achieve with the cashless policy.

MasterCard's role The e-ID is built on MasterCard technology, and it comes branded with MasterCard, thus giving it international recognition and acceptance, based on the world-class security features embedded in it. In the pilot phase, NIMC will issue MasterCard-branded identity cards with electronic payments functionality to 13 million Nigerians. This initiative is the largest rollout of a biometric-based verification card with an electronic payment solution in the country and the broadest financial inclusion programme in Africa, according to financial experts.

According to Monehin, "Combining an identity card with MasterCard's prepaid payment capability creates a game changer as it breaks down one of the most significant barriers to financial inclusion, proof of identity, while simultaneously enabling Nigerians to access the global economy."

The e-ID card forms a key component of the NIMS deployed by NIMC as part of its mandate to create, maintain and operate the country's first central National Identity Database and provide proof of identity to Nigerians. With 13 applications, including MasterCard's prepaid payment technology and Cryptovision's biometric identification technology, the e-ID card will provide millions of Nigerians, the majority of whom have never had access to a banking product - with the security, convenience and reliability of electronic payments.

According to Jonathan, "I am happy that this important milestone of the rollout of the NIMS has been realised in Nigeria. I am impressed with the quality of the e-ID card and the work of the corporate partners that made it possible. I commend especially MasterCard, and Access Bank Plc as well as NIMC for achieving a world-class product." He said the card builds a window to a social security benefit system and therefore, it is a card every Nigerian should get.


NIMC is working with several government agencies to integrate and harmonise all identity databases including Driver's License, Voter Registration, Health Insurance, Tax, SIM and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) into a single, shared services platform. According to Onyemenam, "The National e-ID programme enables us to create an optimised common platform for Nigerian citizens to easily interact with the various government agencies and to transact electronically." "There are many functions of the card, including the potential to use it as an international travel document, which will have significant implications for border control in Nigeria and West Africa," he added.

"In close collaboration with both the public and private sectors to achieve the full potential of this program, NIMC is focused on inclusive citizenship, more effective governance, and the creation of a cashless economy, all of which will stimulate economic growth, investment and trade," Onyemenam said.

Through the collaborative efforts of NIMC, MasterCard, Unified Payment Services Limited, Cryptovision and the issuing banks, 13 million Nigerians will gain access to state-of-art financial services as part of the pilot programme. While NIMC facilitated and coordinated the entire process, MasterCard provided payments technology on which the card runs, while Unified Payment Services Limited provided the payments processor. Cryptovision, which is also part of the collaboration, provided the public key infrastructure and trust services, while pilot issuing banks provided the financial services.

Eligibility/enrolment To receive the e-ID card, Nigerians aged 16 and above need to register at one of the hundreds of NIMC's enrolment centres nationwide. The enrolment process, which is open to all Nigerians that are 16 years and above, across several registration centres in the 36 states of the federation, including the federal capital, involves the recording of an individual's demographic data and biometric data, which captures 10 fingerprints, and facial picture to authenticate the cardholder and ensure that there are no duplicates on the system. Upon registration, NIMC will issue each Nigerian with a unique National Identification Number, followed by the national e-ID card.

Upon completion of the pilot programme, NIMC plans to introduce more than 100 million cards to Nigeria's 167 million citizens. Registration is open till December this year before NIMC will close all avenues for registration, according to presidential directive. With the successful launch of the national identity card in Abuja last week, it is expected that it would boost electronic payments in the country, reduce the cost of producing cash to the economy and society, improve efficiencies and prevent fraud.

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Source: AllAfrica

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