For Stanley Okonkwo, a 31-year-old entrepreneur who ekes out a living running a small establishment that helps students with research projects and online registrations just outside the campus of Imo State University in Southeastern Nigeria, business simply ceased earlier this year.
Once students deserted the campus following the strike action that has kept Nigerian public universities shuttered since February, Okonkwo was forced to find some other way to earn a living, and drop-shipping home furniture from Turkey offered just that. Unfortunately, the last few days have come with a sudden disruption that is likely to stifle his livelihood once again.
“I have to order for my goods online and virtual [dollar] card has helped me a lot. I don’t know what I would have done without it because normal bank cards in Nigeria don’t work for foreign transactions,” Okonkwo shared.
“I’m really frustrated now that my virtual card has stopped working and it’s really stressful to start looking for alternatives.”
Okonkwo is not alone in his despair. While virtual cards would seem like a nice-to-have nonessential in other countries, it’s kind of a lifesaver in Nigeria. Locals (both individuals and businesses) have come to rely on virtual dollar cards for international payments as a matter of necessity.
It’s how payments for various important products and services offered by global platforms - from ad campaigns on Google and Facebook to subscriptions, items (both hardware and software), flight tickets, etc. - are made in Nigeria these days. Well, ever since the country’s central bank put suffocating limits on international transactions.