Verve @Ten: The Key to African Exchange


The development of electronic payment systems (e-payments) in Nigeria and Verve Card’s journey of resilience can be viewed as two peas in a pod.

More than ten years ago, before the introduction of Verve Card, local cards available then were the less secure magnetic strip cards. Cards of foreign origin were already offering superior EMV technology-based products. Africa had a huge gap; payments were left to these big foreign players who could deliver best in class technology. This technology was, however, offered at higher costs to issuers and other participants in the value chain. Interswitch identified the need to have a secured domestic card scheme in Nigeria and therefore, approached industry players and government agencies. At the time, initial responses from industry stakeholders were: (a) “It’s impossible to have a successful debit card network in Nigeria,” (b) “It’s extremely risky to do domestic card business in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile Central Bank of Nigeria mandated all operators in Nigerian payment industry to migrate to EMV (Europay, MasterCard & Visa) in a bid to curb fraud cases associated with card payments. Magnetic strip cards were scheduled to be completely phased out by September 2009.

Verve Card was launched in 2009 with EMV technology to achieve the same level of best in class global standard, and at lower price in order to serve the unserved. Over the past 10 years, we have delivered a local card scheme with a better understanding of the local market compared to foreign alternative cards. Verve Card met all the security requirements of international card schemes, with a transparent pricing model. Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank) was the first bank to issue Verve Card to their customers, and today, Verve Card has built partnerships with banks and other institutions across international boundaries and borders in Africa and beyond.

This year (2019) witnessed three significant milestones in the Verve story: (a) launch of Verve Global card, (b) celebration of Verve Card’s 10th anniversary and (c) the formal launch in Accra, Ghana of Verve Classic Cross Border to 21 African countries.

Verve To The World

In August this year, Verve, in partnership with Discover Global Network, introduced the 16-digit Verve Global Card in order to meet the increasing payment needs of Nigerians and other Africans who travel abroad for business or pleasure and need a local card scheme that works seamlessly abroad. To herald the launch of Verve Global, a “first transaction” event took place at Swarovski, international jewelry retail chain, in Times Square, New York on Monday, August 12, 2019. Present at this event where senior executives from Verve, Discover Global Network, major Nigerian banks (Access Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank), members of local and international press, etc.

The event saw Verve grow from a domestic card scheme to a globally accepted payment solution, offering seamless payment solutions in over 185 countries, flexible exchange rates on international transactions, foreign exchange rebates and lower transaction and maintenance fees with great loyalty and reward schemes.

On the heels of this, in November, Verve Global Card was launched in Dubai for the United Arab Emirates markets. Nigerians traveling outside Africa, including UAE can now make payments on the Discover Global Network anywhere Discover, Diners Club International, Pulse and affiliate network cards are accepted.

Verve Global Card also delivers additional benefits to cardholders including broad reward and loyalty schemes and benefits that are available both locally and internationally.

Mitchell Elegbe, Interswitch Group Managing Director, commented during the first transaction event in New York: “The agreement with Discover Global Network will enable Verve compete with other global card offerings, providing cardholders with an enhanced customer experience when transacting globally outside Nigeria. Creating a solution that facilitates international payments for our consumers will help to eliminate existing barriers and simplify the process when transacting abroad.” 

Ricardo Leite, Senior Vice President of international markets at Discover Global Network also spoke during the New York event: “It is important to us that we are working with groups around the world to extend acceptance for their cardholders. At Discover, we recognize the importance of being able to use your card of choice no matter where you are traveling.”

Mike Ogbalu III, Verve International Chief Executive Officer, also commented: “The launch of the Verve Global card, provides customers with the ability to transact globally across the US and other countries, addressing challenges that many Nigerians have experienced while travelling abroad. Our partnership with Discover Global Network will help us to optimize the overall experience of every Verve Global card holder by facilitating consistent and efficient payment solutions regardless of where they are in the world”.

Verve Global cardholders can now make payments with their cards in U.S., U.K., Dubai and several other international destinations.

The Test Of Time

On Friday, September 27th, 2019, Verve officially kicked off the celebration of its 10th anniversary with the celebration of ten years of resilience and breaking boundaries.

The celebration started with a media parley at The George Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, which had in attendance members of the press, partner banks, other trade partners and a representative of the payment industry regulator – Mr. Samuel Okojere, Director of Payment Systems Management, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Mitchell Elegbe, Interswitch Group Managing Director, noted that over the years, Verve Card scheme has experienced steady and sustained growth in the digital payments sector. 

He said: “Our card scheme has grown from just an idea to solving payment inefficiencies in Nigeria, into a bouquet of innovative payment solutions for Nigerians, Africans and the rest of the world.  I consider these first 10 years as years of consolidation and growth. We anticipate the next 10 years to be years of investment in unprecedented payment service delivery.”

The card scheme has blazed the trail for 10years in the Nigerian and African e-payment space. It continues to meet the payment needs of Africans and continues to deliver reliable payment solutions. Despite starting off as a debit card product, it has grown into a portfolio, with five

products: Verve Global Card, Verve Classic Card, Verve Life, Pay-Code and E-cash. Today Verve has several issuer and acquirer relationships. 

Mike Ogbalu III, CEO of Verve International, believes that the story of Verve is one of resilience, innovation, determination and most importantly, a business proposition that has stood the test of time.

He said: “At the time Verve was introduced, Nigeria was dominated by international card schemes. There was the need to have a domestic card scheme with a better understanding of the needs of Nigerians and Africans. Today, we have built a payment solution that does not only allow ease of payment across Africa, but also a scheme that the rest of the world is willing to embrace.”

He added: “Verve is not only a payment card; Verve has become a lifestyle for its users. It is the way we pay, play and interact. Verve is both a contact and contactless payment solution, a physical and virtual store of value. It is the key to African exchange; the African Key to exchange”. 

Collaboration For Digital Payment Growth In Africa

The city of Accra welcomed Verve International on Friday, October 25, 2019. The event was the formal signing ceremony between Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) and Verve International. It heralds the initiative to drive growth of e-payments in Africa.

Implication of the partnership signing ceremony that took place at Accra Marriot Hotel is that Verve Card users (both Verve Global and Verve Classic) can now transact across channels throughout Ghana.  This acceptance of Verve card is available in a total of 21 African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Gabon, Gambia, among others.

Archie Hesse, Chief Executive Officer of GhIPSS, believes that the partnership has the capacity to boost the Ghanaian digital payment system, stating that the development of the digital payments system in Africa was critical to Africa’s competitiveness in the world.

He said: “We are excited to collaborate with Verve International and to midwife Verve acceptance in Ghana. We are positive this will open a new vista of opportunities for improved services and development of more home-grown solutions. The card portfolio within our banks will increase and Ghanaian cardholders will have more exciting world-class services and benefits to enjoy. Together, GhIPSS and Verve will develop the digital payments ecosystem across the sub-region and beyond.”

Mike Ogbalu III, CEO of Verve International, stated that the partnership was strategic because Verve and GhIPSS shared similar vision to grow digital payments in Africa.

He said: “We are excited about this occasion. It marks the beginning of a great synergy between two organizations with similar aspirations to drive the growth of digital payments across Africa. Because we typically share the same payment and economic challenges in various African countries, it’s also logical that the solution should be via African collaboration. In our attempts to solve these challenges, we realized the importance of partnerships; we also realized that GhIPSS’ vision for Ghana is consistent with that of Verve: to drive growth of digital payments in Africa. So

today, we are witnessing the commencement of partnerships between Verve International and the Ghanaian financial and payment ecosystem to grow digital payments, intra-Africa trade and ultimately drive economic prosperity.”

The partnership reiterates Verve’s commitment to providing solutions that suit the needs of Africans.

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