The Visa Foundation has pledged $5 million in grants and impact investments in Africa in order to support women’s participation in the digital economy.
The support will focus on increasing access to financial solutions and other services for women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa, to drive equitable digital financial access as countries continue to digitize.
The contributions will be allocated to programs that address the digital gender divide, and support women’s full participation in the 21st century economy, it said.
“Expanding access to digital financial services lies at the core of Visa’s purpose, and our company and Visa Foundation are committed to helping address gender disparity and connecting more people to the global economy,” said Aida Diarra, senior VP and head of sub-Saharan Africa at Visa.
The Foundation’s investments were made in connection with US Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Africa and the creation of a new Women in the Digital Economy Fund.
The planned investment also follows Visa’s December 2022 pledge to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to scale its operations and deploy new innovative technologies
Financial inclusion for women
Visa said that an estimated 500 million people in Africa are without access to formal financial services, less than 50% of the adult population make or receive digital payments in Africa, and more than 40 million merchants do not accept digital payments.
Since its inception, the Visa Foundation has committed over $200 million to over 50 countries across various initiatives.
It is already running programs in Africa to empower small-business and women-led entrepreneurship. It said the Foundation’s support has also helped partner organizations reach over 2 million small and midsized businesses (SMBs) globally.
AfriLabs supports women-led SMBs through a women’s accelerator program and the Graça Machel Trust, which supports “gender-lens” investment on the continent. It also backs Aruwa Capital which has a fund to provide financing to women-led SMBs in Africa as well as TLCom TIDE Africa Fund, which invests in African companies that use technology as a lever to solve societal challenges.
Visa has also introduced a series of initiatives to support women’s empowerment together with financial partners.
These include a partnership with Vodacom in the DRC to empower women with disabilities; a collaboration with the Hand in Hand’s Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Program, which supported 8,200 women entrepreneurs over three years; as well as She’s Next, which brings funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs leading growing SMBs in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.
Visa is not the only global company investing in Africa’s digital transformation.
In October 2021, Google pledged to invest $1 billion over the next five years to support Africa’s digital transformation.
In March 2021, the search giant also announced it would give $25 million in funding to non-profits and social enterprises around the world that are working to advance the economic empowerment of women and girls.