May 23, 2024

The Visa Africa Fintech Boosts Africa’s Payment Ecosystem

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The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerate aligns with Visa’s pledge to invest $1bln in Africa by 2027 and focus on boosting Africa's payment ecosystem and uplift the digital economy
Representational Image stating Digital Economy and Fintech Initiatives-Image Credit- By Rawpixel from Freepik

The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator, launched in June 2023, aligns with Visa’s pledge to invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027, focusing on boosting Africa’s payment ecosystem and uplifting the digital economy.

Industry sources added that it is a 12-week hybrid plan that focuses on the fintech startups in Africa to scale their solutions and access Visa’s network, expertise, and capabilities. The program runs twice a year, accepting up to 20 startups per cohort. The second cohort of the program accepted applications until February 29, 2024.

Leila Serhan, Senior Vice-president and Group Country Manager for North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan(NALP) at Visa. Image Courtesy: Visa

According to Leila Serhan, Senior Vice-president and Group Country Manager for North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan(NALP) at Visa “This program is meticulously designed to empower startups by connecting them with seasoned mentors, state-of-the-art technology, and exceptional investment opportunities, providing them with the resources they need to grow and make a significant impact on the African digital economy, serving as a pivotal platform that bridges Africa’s most promising innovators with the expertise required to succeed in the competitive fintech sector.”

Industry sources further added that Startups participating in the program can expect personalized mentoring from industry experts within Visa and Plug and Play’s network, access to a broad venture capital network, and opportunities to engage with a diverse array of speakers and curated content. Additionally, they also benefit from Visa’s training modules, onboarding tools, and the initiative to secure funding through investment reviews and a Demo Day presentation to global venture capitalists.

The program facilitates fintech startups in scaling their solutions and tapping into Visa’s expansive network and resources by offering personalized mentorship, tailored training programs, and networking opportunities with partners, investors, and industry leaders. This comprehensive support system is designed to permit startups to refine their offerings, navigate fintech complexities, and foster strategic partnerships for growth.

The first cohort of the Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator program has witnessed remarkable success and achievements, with startups operating in over 18 African countries and selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants, displaying its ability to attract and nurture top talent in the fintech space.

Notably, 41% of the participating startups had a woman founder or a woman in their leadership team, with a proven commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Among the success stories, Timbo Drayson, CEO and co-founder of OkHi, an AI-powered smart addressing system first launched in Kenya, stands out as a notable success story from the first cohort of the program. Drayson emphasized the program’s significant impact on OkHi, stating that it helped upskill their entire team across various domains, including finance, engineering, HR, and design.

As the program plans forward with its second cohort, it endures to offer entrepreneurs mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to a broader network of partners and investors.

As an outcome, the firm experienced a surge in business velocity. Additionally, Drayson emphasized the program’s role in facilitating the latest customer and partner acquisitions in previously untapped markets, thanks to partnerships with other startups in the cohort.

Seed to Series A startups operating in Africa are invited to apply for the program which targets fintech startups falling under specific categories, including unlocking money movement, embedded finance, empowering merchants and SMEs, payment infrastructure enablers, the future of finance, and sustainable and inclusive finance.

Industry sources added that in these categories, startups focus on digitizing various payment types, powering payment and finance experiences, triggering the growth of merchants and SMEs, building payment infrastructure, embracing emerging technologies in finance, and contributing to sustainable and inclusive finance are encouraged to apply.

These categories represent a diverse array of opportunities within the fintech ecosystem, powering the program’s commitment to aid innovation and fostering growth in Africa’s digital economy.

Plug and Play plays a crucial role as a key program partner for the Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator. Through this partnership, startups not only gain access to personalized one-on-one mentoring from investment professionals within Plug and Play’s extensive venture capital network across Africa but also benefit from a diverse range of speakers and curated content provided over 12 specialized focus weeks.

Moreover, startups can leverage Plug and Play’s product perks platform, in conjunction with Visa’s comprehensive training modules and onboarding tools, to enhance their growth and development within the program.

Additionally, the collaboration between Visa and Plug and Play offers startups the opportunity for investment review by both entities, providing avenues for potential funding and furthering their success in the fintech industry.

The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator Program’s application phase for its second cohort ran from January 8th to February 29th, 2024.

Selected startups will undergo two rounds of screening, with shortlisted candidates participating in virtual interviews before the final selection. During the 12-week program, startups will receive personalized one-on-one mentoring from investment professionals within Plug and Play’s extensive venture capital network across Africa.

The program duration spans three months virtually, concluding with an in-person pitch day/demo day where participants have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to top global venture capitalists.

The criteria considered when selecting startups for the Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator Program encompass several key factors. Firstly, startups must operate within the fintech sector and be at the Seed to Series A stage.

Additionally, they should be actively generating revenue on the African continent. Furthermore, startups are evaluated based on their alignment with specific categories, including unlocking money movement, embedded finance, empowering merchants and SMEs, payment infrastructure enablers, the future of finance, and sustainable and inclusive finance. The program seeks to support innovative solutions that address challenges and opportunities within the fintech ecosystem in Africa.

Moreover, diversity and inclusion are prioritized, as evidenced by the participation of startups from diverse backgrounds and the presence of women founders or leaders in the first cohort. Overall, the selection process aims to identify disruptive startups with the potential for growth and impact in Africa’s digital economy.

The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator Program demonstrates a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion within the startup ecosystem, with a particular emphasis on female representation. In the first cohort, 41% of startups had at least one woman on their founding team, highlighting efforts to promote gender diversity.

Additionally, the program aims to foster an inclusive environment by providing equal opportunities for all startups, regardless of gender, background, or location within Africa.

By encouraging applications from diverse founders and startups, the program seeks to amplify voices from underrepresented groups and create a more inclusive fintech ecosystem. Through initiatives such as personalized mentoring, curated content, and networking opportunities, the program also strives to empower women entrepreneurs and support their success in the startup landscape.

The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator Program aligns closely with Visa’s commitment to investing in Africa’s digital transformation and fostering inclusive growth.  Launched as part of Visa’s pledge to invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027, the program aims to revolutionize Africa’s payment ecosystem and uplift the digital economy.

By providing startups with personalized mentoring, curated content, and access to Visa’s technology and capabilities, the program enables entrepreneurs to innovate and scale their solutions, thereby contributing to the advancement of Africa’s fintech landscape.

Moreover, the program’s focus on fostering diversity and inclusion, as evidenced by initiatives to support female representation and empower underrepresented groups, reflects Visa’s commitment to creating opportunities for all within the startup ecosystem.

Visa is committed to further supporting fintech growth in Africa beyond the accelerator program through various initiatives and plans. These initiatives include continued investment in the region’s digital transformation, with Visa pledging to invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027. This investment aims to revolutionize Africa’s payment ecosystem and uplift the digital economy, demonstrating Visa’s long-term commitment to advancing Africa’s economies and driving inclusive growth.

One of our flagship initiatives, the Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI), serves as a testament to our commitment. In 2022, we launched the VEI in Egypt, with plans for expansion into more markets across the North Africa and Levant Partnership (NALP) region. This global open innovation program provides a platform for start-ups and fintech companies to showcase their groundbreaking solutions. Furthermore, the CEMEA region witnessed remarkable growth, with a 33% increase in applicants, indicating the rising prominence of VEI and its associated benefits.

Additionally, we recently announced an exciting collaboration with the American University in Cairo’s Venture Lab (AUC V-Lab), marking a significant advancement in Egypt’s fintech space. Through this partnership, Visa will provide startups enrolled in AUC V-Lab’s Fintech Accelerator program access to its vast network of industry experts, collaboration opportunities, and cutting-edge payment solutions. This support will equip startups with the tools needed to scale their businesses, expand their customer base, and drive innovation in local and international markets.

Another notable endeavor was Morocco’s inaugural Visa Fintech Day, marking our on-going commitment and served as a pivotal platform for our future plans to advance fintech in Morocco, facilitate knowledge exchange, and promote Visa’s opportunities, including our Africa Fintech program.

Through initiatives like these, Visa plans to collaborate with ecosystem players, funding partners, angel investors, venture capitalists, and other stakeholders to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the fintech sector.

Interested startups can apply for the Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator Program by visiting the Visa website and submitting their applications online. The program is open to Seed to Series A startups operating in Africa, and they can apply through the Visa website during the specified application period.

While there are specific categories under which startups are invited to apply, such as unlocking money movement, embedded finance, empowering merchants and SMEs, payment infrastructure enablers, the future of finance, and sustainable and inclusive finance, the eligibility criteria include being post-MVP to Series A startups currently generating revenue on the African continent.

Adding to the above, generally, there are no limitations or restrictions to participate in the program if the startup is based in Africa and meets the eligibility criteria mentioned above.

Visa aims to achieve several success metrics and key milestones through the program, aligning with its broader mission to revolutionize Africa’s payment ecosystem and uplift the digital economy. These include providing investment consideration and review for select participating startups, and offering avenues for potential funding to support their growth and development.

Additionally, the program seeks to accelerate startups’ commercial launch by granting access to Visa’s technology and personalized one-on-one mentoring from investment professionals within Plug and Play’s extensive venture capital network across Africa; which in turn enables support startups in scaling their businesses and expanding their market reach.

The Visa Africa Fintech Accelerator program offers comprehensive support to startups in terms of mentorship, curated content, and investment opportunities.

Through personalized mentorship provided by more than 20 industry experts and technology partners, startups in Africa receive tailored guidance essential for their success. This mentorship covers a wide range of topics crucial for startup growth, including market trends, regulatory landscapes, and emerging technologies.

By engaging in one-on-one guidance and training sessions, startups gain invaluable insights and strategic advice to effectively navigate the fintech ecosystem. This personalized approach ensures that each startup’s unique needs and objectives are addressed, empowering them to develop innovative solutions that drive meaningful impact in the digital payments landscape.

In addition to mentorship, the program offers curated content tailored to the specific needs and objectives of participating startups. This curated content covers various essential topics such as market trends, regulatory landscapes, and emerging technologies, delivered through workshops, seminars, and networking events, providing startups with valuable insights and knowledge necessary for developing their innovative solutions.

Furthermore, startups gain access to investment opportunities through potential funding and partnership avenues facilitated by Visa. The program connects startups with investors, venture capitalists, and strategic partners interested in supporting innovative fintech solutions.

Overall, the program’s holistic approach ensures that startups receive the necessary support and resources to thrive in the competitive fintech landscape.

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