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In a bid to foster regional payments innovation and fintech entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa, global payments company Visa today announced the launch of the Everywhere Initiative on the continent at the DHL Ecommerce Money Africa conference in Cape Town.
Visa’s Everywhere Initiative is an innovation programme designed to encourage the emergence of “the next big thing” in digital payments globally.
The initiative has since its inception in 2015 awarded over $1-million and mentorship to 36 winners selected from over 130 finalists in over 40 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
In all, more than 2100 startups globally have participated in the programme.
Last month, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Visa announced that it would be expanding the programme to Africa.
Fintech startups have until 31 May to submit their solutions to one of three Everywhere Initiative challenges
Participants will get the opportunity to compete for a chance to win up to $50 000, support in a development programme with Visa and business partnership opportunities with Visa’s clients.
In addition, participants also stand to gain access to the company’s application programming interfaces (APIs) as well as support and mentorship from Visa’s executive mentors.
Visa’s regional president for CEMEA Andrew Torre said in a statement that the initiative allows Visa to explore a number of ideas aimed at solving business challenges, influencing product road maps, supporting customers, and shaping a culture of innovation.
The company’s Sub-Sahara Africa senior director for digital solutions Geraldine Mitchley (pictured above) said with over a $100-million invested over the past 10 years alone, the region’s fintech industry is on the brink of a transformative breakthrough, adding that the “time is ripe” to bring together the continent’s brightest minds and work on the next big idea in payments technology.
“With a clear goal of enabling cashless economies and financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape,” said Mitchley.
She said that the company had in the past two years “opened itself up” to working with startups.
“Typically, in the old days, we’d always sit behind the banks and often the consumer didn’t really discriminate. They would just get their bank product and not really know the type of technology that is behind the (Visa) badge that’s branded on the card,” she said to Ventureburn before the launch.
Late to the party?
With Africa having in the past few years driven innovation in digital payments, Ventureburn asked Mitchley why it has taken Visa three years to launch the initiative here.
She said the company has in fact been working with African fintechs for some time.
“We’ve actually been doing it for a lot longer. It’s just that we would do it through our own selective process,” she explained, adding that the company has invested in mobile money in emerging markets on the continent as well as in financial inclusion and in other “non-traditional partnerships”.
She said it wasn’t as if the company hadn’t been doing anything in Africa. “It’s just that we weren’t doing it in this format,” she said.
“So, agreed we were a bit late in the game. But we are kind of still new to this I guess. We are not the Google of maps, the Facebook of blogging or whatever yet, but with our services we definitely needed that when we launch, we wanted to be at that level,” she said.
She explained that Visa is “not the Google Maps” as the payments giant deals “with personal information, people’s money, and so we had to be slow and steady. And so it took us a while,” she added.
We’ve seen thousands of fintech innovations come through. What’s really been great is how we’ve seen new technologies being leveraged,” she said referring to LISNR, a startup that aims to use sound to transfer payments, which Mitchley said had been one of the successes of the programme.
“The really cool thing is around how new tech and open APIs gets mashed up to come up with new interesting use cases,” she added.
Here’s how you can get involved
African startups can join the Everywhere Initiative by submitting their solutions to one of three challenges by 31 May.
The challenges are as follows:
• How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally or provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive ecommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
• How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments?
• How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?
Each of the three Everywhere Initiative challenges “has been structured keeping in mind the niche dynamics of the local landscape”.
Three finalists will be selected per challenge to present their ideas to a judging panel at Visa’s local offices in each respective region.
Thereafter, one winner will be selected per challenge who will receive a $25 000 prize and be invited to meet with Visa where they might be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype.
Visa will then select an overall winner who will receive an additional $25 000.
After the programme, Mitchley said Visa will continue to work with the winners to “connect the dots from concept to commercialisation”.
Featured image: Visa Sub-Sahara Africa senior director for digital solutions Geraldine Mitchley (Supplied)