MasterCard delivered its biggest commitment to financial inclusion to date, announcing the rollout of 13 million smart cards that would also serve as national identity cards for Nigerians.

MasterCard and the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission announced May 8 a pilot program for the MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Card, calling it “the largest formal electronic payment solution in the country.”

MasterCard has targeted Africa with its global financial inclusion program, which is designed to bring plastic cards and electronic payments to regions of the world in which consumers essentially use only cash.

Nigerians 16 and older, as well as any residents in the country for more than two years, will qualify for the new multipurpose identity card.

The card will feature 13 applications, including MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology, and operate as an EMV chip-and-PIN card.

Access Bank PLC will issue the cards, while Unified Payment Services Ltd. will process the payments for the identity cards.

MasterCard and the Nigerian commission made the announcement at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Capetown, South Africa.

The smart card will incorporate the unique National Identification Numbers of registered Nigerians. The enrollment process involves recording an individual’s demographic data and biometric data, including 10 fingerprint scans, a facial picture and digital signature to authenticate the cardholder and counter fraud and embezzlement, MasterCard states in a press release.

After the national registration process is complete, the identity management commission plans to distribute more than 100 million cards to Nigeria’s 167 million citizens, MasterCard says.

The cardholder can deposit funds on the card, receive social benefits, and make purchases at any of the 35 million MasterCard acceptance locations globally. Cardholders can withdraw cash from all ATMs that accept MasterCard, or engage in other electronic-payment transactions.

Because of the unique identification numbers, cards such as a driver’s license, voters registration, health insurance, tax, SIM and pension commission can integrate into the multi-function card scheme of the National Identity Smart Card, MasterCard says.

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