Visa Foundation to invest $5m in Africa to support female participation in digital economy

Since inception, Visa Foundation has committed over $200m to 50+ countries across various initiatives. -- AP Photo/Jenny Kane.

Since inception, Visa Foundation has committed over $200m to 50+ countries across various initiatives. -- AP Photo/Jenny Kane.

Published Apr 9, 2023


THE Visa Foundation announced that it expects to contribute $5m in grants and impact investments in Africa that will support women’s participation in the digital economy.

The Foundation said investments were made in connection with US Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Africa and the creation of a new Women in the Digital Economy Fund and follows Visa’s recent pledge to invest $1bn in Africa to advance resilient, innovative, and inclusive economies.

Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa said expanding access to digital financial services lay at the core of Visa’s purpose, and the company and Visa Foundation were committed to helping address gender disparity and connecting more people to the global economy.

“We welcome and are pleased to support important global initiatives, such as the Women in Digital Economy Fund, and we look forward to working with government, NGO and private sector partners to create equitable access for all,” Diarra said.

Visa Foundation’s support would 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 digitise.

The contributions would be allocated to programs that address the digital gender divide, and support women’s full participation in the 21st century economy.

Today, an estimated 500 million people in Africa were without access to formal financial services, less than 50% of the adult population made or received digital payments in Africa, and more than 40 million merchants did not accept digital payments.

Visa and Visa Foundation were dedicated to expanding financial inclusion by empowering small-business and women-led entrepreneurship in Africa through various programmes.

Since inception, Visa Foundation has committed over $200m to 50+ countries across various initiatives.

The Foundation’s support has also helped partner organisations reach over 2 million Small to Medium Businesses, (SMBs) globally. In Sub-Saharan Africa, notable grants and investments included AfriLabs to support women-led SMBs through a women’s accelerator program, which would provide technical assistance and access to capital.

Others included Aruwa Capital to provide financing to women-led SMBs in Africa and provide the fundamentals for SMBs to grow and scale and TLcom TIDE Africa Fund to continue investing in African companies that used technology as a lever to solve Africa’s 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 Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Program, which supported 8 200 women entrepreneurs over three years, and She’s Next, which brings funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs leading growing SMBs in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa.

Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD and Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework, wrote in an article titled How to unlock Women’s Potential in the Digital Economy, that access to a reliable and affordable internet connection is the bedrock of the digital economy.

They said while the gender gap in internet usage has shrunk globally, it remained significant in many developing countries, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs).”Globally, 57% of women used the internet compared with 62% of men, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Of the estimated 2.7 billion people currently unconnected, the majority are women and girls.

And in the LDCs, only 19% of women use the internet as opposed to 31% of men.”

Enabling women entrepreneurs in developing countries to partake in the digital economy calls for a multifaceted approach, necessitating collaboration among governments, businesses and civil society.

This approach should aim to provide women with access to digital resources, education, skills and financial support.

They said that enabling more women entrepreneurs to take advantage of the growing digital economy, break down barriers and thrive in the global marketplace is critically important to fully harness digital opportunities for sustainable development.

“By investing in women's participation in the digital economy, we can create a more inclusive and equitable global economy that benefits everyone.”