ABUJA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Nigeria's central bank on Thursday launched a domestic card scheme to rival foreign cards like Mastercard and Visa, hoping to enhance its drive to make Africa's biggest economy a cashless society and save the country foreign transaction fees.
The announcement by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele follows the bank's decision last year to phase out old higher denomination bank notes.
Emefiele told a virtual launch of the "AfriGo" card scheme that although penetration of card payments in Nigeria had grown over the years, many citizens remained excluded.
"The challenges that have limited the inclusion of Nigerians include the high cost of card services as a result of foreign exchange requirements of international card schemes and the fact that existing card products do not address local peculiarities of the Nigerian market," said Emefiele.
AfriGo is owned by CBN and Nigerian banks and Emefiele said that Nigeria was joining China, Russia, India and Turkey in launching a domestic card scheme.
International card service providers like Mastercard and Visa would not be stopped in Nigeria, he added.
"Rather, it (AFRIGO) is aimed at providing more options for domestic consumers whilst also promoting the delivery of services in a more innovative, cost effective and competitive manner," he said.
Africa's most populous nation Nigeria, has more than 200 million people and the majority still use cash because they live in rural areas where there are not banks. (Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Diane Craft)