Visa Foundation has announced a $1 Million grant partnership with two African organizations to its efforts to support gender diverse and inclusive small and micro businesses.

Visa Foundation will direct the grants to AfriLabs, the largest and most diverse community of technology hubs, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the African ecosystem, and Graça Machel Trust, a women founded and-led Pan African nonprofit raising the profile of women’s economic empowerment and gender-lens investment on the continent.

The funding comes as part of Visa Foundation’s five-year, $200 Million Equitable Access Initiative launched in April 2020. It was a strategic commitment to support gender diverse and inclusive SMBs around the world.

The combined $1 Million in funding will prioritize the growth of gender diverse and inclusive small and micro businesses (SMBs) in the region. Through the Equitable Access Initiative, Visa Foundation as of January 2023 has committed $162 Million in grants and investments to 60 grantees and investees in more than 60 countries and supported 3.4 million small businesses globally, including in Africa.

“Visa Foundation is working around the world with partners to eliminate barriers to capital by investing in those who have been historically excluded from economic opportunity,” said Graham Macmillan, president, Visa Foundation. “We’re excited to support growing women entrepreneurs in Africa through these impactful organizations that address the stark gender investment gap across the region.”

Through the Visa Foundation grant, AfriLabs will fund its RevUp Women Initiative which supports early-stage, women-led startups in Africa. The initiative entails capacity-building training and mentoring to 500 beneficiaries, and 10 business owners will be selected to receive a $10,000 investment each through the Catalytic Africa matching fund. The first cohort of beneficiaries will be selected from Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa. The call for applications opens on February 27, 2023.

With its funding, Graça Machel Trust will grow its flagship enterprise development program Women Creating Wealth in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa to reach 100 women-led, small-to-medium sized businesses. The Firestarters initiative builds on the current investor readiness programme the organization has in place that helps ‘missing middle’ women entrepreneurs scale their businesses and galvanize action around access to capital at the country, regional and continental levels.