Visa Everywhere Initiative: Advancing Fintech Innovation for Financial Inclusion
The fintech revolution has transformed the way consumers connect with businesses, offering new opportunities for entrepreneurs worldwide. One of the significant impacts of fintech is its ability to reach previously unbanked and underbanked populations, providing them with access to financial services and empowering them in the digital economy. Visa Everywhere Initiative, a global program aimed at fostering fintech growth and financial inclusion, has played a vital role in this transformation. In this article, we explore how Visa Everywhere is advancing fintech innovation to reach the underbanked, with a particular focus on the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) region.
Empowering the Underbanked through Fintech:
Traditionally, financial services were limited to established banking institutions, leaving millions of individuals excluded from the formal financial system. However, the rise of fintech has opened up avenues for the unbanked and underbanked to access financial services, often through mobile accounts and innovative solutions. This shift has led to unprecedented growth and opportunities for regions that historically lacked access to financial services, fostering entrepreneurship and economic development.
Fintech Growth in the CEMEA Region:
The CEMEA region has witnessed a remarkable surge in fintech startups, with record-setting years for funding and a strong emphasis on improving financial accessibility. In Africa, the number of tech startups tripled to an estimated 5,200 companies between 2020 and 2021, while the Middle East’s fintechs secured $503 million in funding across 41 deals last year. These figures demonstrate the increasing momentum of fintech in the region and the potential for transformative impact.
Visa Everywhere Initiative: Promoting Financial Inclusion and Innovation:
Visa Everywhere Initiative, launched in 2015, has become a platform for fintech startups to showcase their solutions and gain exposure to a global audience. With nearly 12,000 startups from over 100 countries applying to the program, Visa Everywhere Initiative has helped address the funding gap faced by early-stage entrepreneurs. The competition provides an opportunity for startups to pitch their ideas to expert judges, offering exposure and connections to influential tech audiences.
Global Finals and Prizes:
The competition culminates in a global final held at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Regional winners from different parts of the world compete for monetary prizes, including $50,000 for the overall winner, $10,000 for the audience favorite, and $10,000 for the Visa Direct winner. The CEMEA region also awards various local and regional prizes before the finals, providing startups with additional recognition and support.
Benefits Beyond the Finals:
Even for startups that do not reach the final stages, participating in Visa Everywhere Initiative offers significant advantages. Entrants gain exposure to Visa’s network of traditional clients, including financial institutions, merchants, acquirers, and other fintechs. This exposure opens doors to potential partnerships and collaborations, facilitating the growth and scalability of these startups.
Success Stories in the CEMEA Region:
One notable success story in the CEMEA region is ThriveAgric, a Nigerian startup that won regional and global recognition in 2022. ThriveAgric focuses on digitizing the value chain for small farmers, enabling access to financing, land mapping, harvest data, and inventory management. Through its innovative approach, ThriveAgric has disbursed over $100 million in financing to more than 514,000 farmers, contributing to Nigeria’s agriculture sector, employment, food security, and poverty reduction.
Visa’s Support for ThriveAgric and Similar Startups:
Visa recognized the transformative potential of ThriveAgric’s technology and aligned it with the company’s core vision of expanding the digital economy to be accessible for all. Visa has partnered with ThriveAgric to provide strategic support, solutions, road mapping, and go-to-market plans, enabling the startup to realize its goals effectively. ThriveAgric’s success demonstrates how startups can leverage Visa’s capabilities and existing products like Visa Direct to advance their business models.
Looking Ahead and Fostering Innovation:
As the Visa Everywhere Initiative progresses towards the CEMEA finals, the competition showcases a broad range of rapidly innovating areas. Advancements in artificial intelligence, open banking, and digital identity solutions are poised to drive fintech growth in the CEMEA region and beyond. By fostering innovation and supporting startups, Visa plays a pivotal role in promoting financial inclusivity and pushing the boundaries of fintech.
Visa Everywhere Initiative serves as a catalyst for fintech innovation and financial inclusion, particularly in underbanked regions such as CEMEA. The program empowers startups to showcase their solutions, connect with industry leaders, and gain exposure to Visa’s extensive network. Through success stories like ThriveAgric, Visa demonstrates its commitment to supporting transformative fintech startups and driving economic development. As the fintech landscape continues to evolve, initiatives like Visa Everywhere Initiative play a crucial role in fostering innovation and expanding access to financial services for the underbanked.