Visa has announced its intention to launch dedicated Kenya editions of both its Visa Everywhere Initiative and She’s Next global fintech innovation and women’s empowerment programs over the next 12 months.

She’s Next will be launched in Kenya in 2023 in partnership with financial institutions and will target women entrepreneurs to address the funding and operational needs of their businesses. In addition to this, Visa will have the first Kenya-dedicated edition of its Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI) fintech challenge in 2023.

VEI is a global innovation program that tasks start-ups to compete to solve the commerce challenges of tomorrow, and pitch visionary solutions for Visa’s vast network of partners. The program also serves as a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their products and gain the support they need to scale. Since its launch in 2015, the program has helped startups from over 100 countries collectively raise more than $2.5 billion in funding, addressing one of the biggest challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs.

The expanded efforts follow the launch of Visa’s first pan-African Innovation Studio in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2022, which provides a state-of-the-art facility to co-create future-ready payment, commerce and money movement solutions.

Kenya has an estimated 7.4 million SMBs and Visa is targeting a fivefold increase in the number of Kenyan small businesses they will digitize in the next five years. Globally, since the onset of the pandemic, Visa has directly supported more than 40 million SMBs worldwide, following a June 2020 commitment to digitally enable 50 million SMBs.

Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) at Visa said: “We have also seen how transformative digitisation initiatives have been for small businesses in Kenya and are looking forward to partnering to drive even further access to more financial services for these businesses where gaps still exist, particularly among women.”

Eva Ngigi-Sarwari, Country Leader for Kenya at Visa said: “The Hand in Hand partnership is an example of the impact we can have through collaboration and our extended commitment to enabling SMBs is a testament to our belief in the potential of this segment to improve lives and drive economic growth for our country”

Visa has a long-standing commitment to enabling small businesses and more recently committed US$200 million to support SMBs worldwide over five years with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement. As part of this plan, Visa launched several local initiatives including a grant of US$2.4 million to Hand in Hand, an NPO, for the execution of the Kenya Micro Enterprise Success programme (KMES). To date, the programme has worked directly with 10,750 beneficiaries to improve their quality of life and financial resilience, against an original target of 10,200. Overall, the programme has created 5,178 jobs against an initial target of 2,766, and enhanced 8,708 enterprises, with 86% of them being women-owned.