Visa Pledges $1bn Investments in Africa to Accelerate Digital Transformation
Visa has pledged to invest $1bn investments in Africa over the next five years in a bid to promote resilient, innovative and inclusive economies on the continent. The new funds will be used to enable wider access to digital payments, build up the payment ecosystem and support the digitisation of economies. The plan will also focus on strengthening infrastructure, including new innovations and technologies, while upskilling and developing talent. Alfred Kelly, Visa’s CEO, said the company has “been investing in Africa for several decades to grow a truly local business” and Africa remains at the heart of Visa’s long-term growth plans.
The announcement was made at the US-Africa Business Forum, alongside the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. Kelly said Visa will work with governments, financial institutions, mobile network operators, fintechs and merchants to strengthen its operations in Africa. Currently, 500 million people on the continent do not have access to formal financial services, and less than 50% of the adult population makes or receives digital payments. Around 40 million merchants do not accept digital payments. Visa recently expanded its operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan, and opened a new innovation studio in Kenya.
The investments pledge is in line with Visa’s corporate goal to be the best way to pay and be paid. The company aims to promote financial inclusion and support small and women-led entrepreneurship in Africa through its operations and community programmes. Last year, Visa unveiled She’s Next, a program aimed at supporting and empowering female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa. The initiative includes mentoring, education and training, as well as access to a network of female entrepreneurs, investors and experts.
“Expanding financial inclusion is critical to long-term economic prosperity, and we are proud to have worked with financial and public sector partners to launch new initiatives such as She’s Next,” said Leila Serhan, senior vice president of Visa North Africa Levant and Pakistan. “We look forward to continuing to support programs that advance inclusion and prosperity while introducing new innovations designed for consumers and businesses across Africa.”
In addition to its investments pledge, Visa also announced the expansion of its Visa Everywhere Initiative to Africa. The program challenges fintechs, start-ups and entrepreneurs to create new payment solutions that address local needs and opportunities. The initiative will hold its first pitch competition in Africa in 2018, with the winner receiving a $25,000 cash prize and the opportunity to work with Visa on product development and go-to-market strategy. “We are excited to extend the Visa Everywhere Initiative to Africa, and to work with the fintech community to create new payment solutions that will benefit consumers and merchants across the continent,” said Visa’s Kelly.
Visa’s investments in Africa are part of the company’s wider commitment to advancing the digital economy and financial inclusion globally. In June, Visa announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance financial inclusion in developing countries. As part of the partnership, Visa will provide $5m in grants over five years to support the development and scaling of digital financial services in low-income communities. Visa will also work with the foundation to identify and invest in financial technology solutions that can expand access to formal financial services in developing countries.
“We believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to the tools and services that make it possible to participate in the global economy,” said Kelly. “Visa is committed to working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the goal of financial inclusion, and to help create a world where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”
Visa has recently made significant strategic investments to advance its Africa expansion, including:
· Establishing local operations for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan to help support and strengthen the local financial ecosystem. Visa has 10 offices across Africa from which it supports payments in all 54 countries.
· Unveiling the first dedicated Visa Sub-Saharan Africa Innovation Studio, in Nairobi, Kenya, to provide a state-of-the-art environment to bring together clients and partners to co-create future-ready payment and commerce solutions.
· Introducing and expanding new technologies that help African consumers and merchants make and receive digital payments, such as Tap to Phone which can turn a simple mobile phone into a payment device, as well as lowering remittance costs through innovative solutions like Visa Direct.
· Establishing Visa as the fintech partner of choice, working together with innovative financial technology companies and entrepreneurs, including running the Visa Everywhere Initiative program, which launched dedicated country programs in Ethiopia and Egypt, with the global program attracting entrants from across Africa.
· Launching new programs to support women’s empowerment together with financial partners, including She’s Next, which is bringing funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs leading growing SMBs in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa.
· Collaborating, with partners, to advance financial literacy in several languages, including the first Arabic version of Practical Money Skills in Egypt.