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How Visa’s commitment to startups and fintech drives inclusion and access for everyone

By Alex McCrea, Vice President and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Ventures for Visa Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa

Visa Everywhere Initiative expands the reach of Fintech in a reshaped financial landscape

Fintechs and startups have emerged from the pandemic as leaders in the economic recovery, providing convenient platforms to buy and sell goods and services, and more importantly, send and receive money. Their success in securing real-time, simplified, and secure movement of money across Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) empowers growth and boosts the digital payment ecosystem. 

Fintechs can only meet consumers’ demands by gaining and expanding access to a comprehensive network of companies, clients, service providers and more. So, what can be done to help up-and-coming startups, as well as more established Fintech companies so we can all enjoy the benefits?

Programs such as the Visa Fintech Fast-track and the Visa Developer represent effective ways to solidify growth trajectory, boost exposure and continue to tap into ever expanding customer demand. With more than $500,000 in total prize funding, the annual Visa Everywhere Initiative program unlocks opportunities and supercharges success for CEMEA’s most promising Fintechs and startups. 

New normal for payment models

Fintech has not only helped to digitally onboard more customers, but also respond to rising demand for new payment mechanisms, such as Buy Now Pay Later, Tap to Phone and real time payments. With Visa Direct for example, Visa’s real-time money movement platform, Fintechs are enabling their customers to send and receive money to billions of endpoints worldwide, in any of 160 transaction currencies. 

Broad accessibility, ease of use and lower costs have fueled the growth of these payment innovations across the world in recent years. 

A case for crypto

Ever since Bitcoin was released in 2009, applications for cryptocurrency, and blockchain in general, have expanded greatly. So have the opportunities for crypto to change the digital payments landscape. 

Consumers’ awareness of cryptocurrencies continues to rise, hitting 84%in the UAE. In South Africa, a Visa survey titled “The Crypto Phenomenon: Consumer Attitudes and Usage” reveals that 44% of South Africans are either active or passive owners of crypto

2021 was a watershed moment for cryptocurrencies when the sector’s market capitalization grew by 187.5%. In 2022, sales of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) reached $37 billion worldwide almost exceeding the total amount in all of 2021. 

Former professional athlete and artist Micah Johnson, who made his first NFT sale in 2020 with the help of the Visa Creator’s Program, has mentioned that “NFTs unlocked an opportunity for me to build a community of people interested in supporting my work…[and] with guidance from the early crypto community, I’ve been able to build a small business around my crypto-native character, Aku, that can grow into a global media company rooted in driving value back to that same community that evangelized my work.” 

Increasingly, cryptocurrency-linked startups are seeking to gain an extra push by engaging with trusted financial operators.  The Visa Everywhere Initiative and the Visa Fintech Partner Connect are two programs designed to help connect these startups with traditional banks and institutions. Many of these establishments are eager to explore Fintech opportunities but lack on-the-ground experience or knowledge. They resolve to look for curated partners that can provide emerging technologies to complement their digital innovation efforts.

Enabling access though innovation in digital payments

With 1.8 billion people worldwide without access to digital financial services, including 700 million individuals and 60 million merchants across the CEMEA region, the Visa Everywhere Initiative is looking for Fintech that can offer innovative payment and commerce solutions to tackle the challenge of access and financial inclusion. These include but are not limited to: Enablers of digital services, digital issuance, Value-add for merchants and/or consumers in the space of finance and small/medium-sized business solutions. This year, the initiative has expanded to showcase startups using cryptocurrency and Visa Direct, Visa’s real-time money movement platform, in innovative ways.

Fintech access to funding and to the payment ecosystem is also critical. Since its launch in 2015, the program has supported startups from over 100 countries collectively raise more than $16 billion in funding and get access to Visa’s wide network of clients, addressing one of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face in their startup years. 

This year, the CEMEA region had special editions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the winners will be announced during the finale which will be broadcasted on June 17th, here on TechCrunch. Will your idea be among them?

For more information about the VEI program, visit www.visa.com/everywhereinitiative