The Visa Foundation plans to contribute US$5 million in grants and impact investments in Africa that would support women’s participation in the digital economy.
This follows Visa’s recent pledge to invest US$1 billion in Africa to advance resilient, innovative and inclusive economies in connection with US vice president Kamala Harris’s trip to Africa and the creation of a new Women in the Digital Economy Fund.
Aida Diarra, the senior vice president and head of sub-Saharan Africa at Visa, said expanding access to digital financial services lay at the core of Visa’s purpose, and the company and Visa Foundation were committed to helping address gender disparity and connecting more people to the global economy.
“We welcome and are pleased to support important global initiatives, such as the Women in Digital Economy Fund and we look forward to working with governments, non-governmental organisations and private sector partners to create equitable access for all,” Diarra said.
Visa Foundation’s support would focus on increasing access to financial solutions and other services for women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa, to drive equitable digital financial access as countries continue to digitise.
The contributions would be allocated to programmes that address the digital gender divide, and support women’s full participation in the 21st century economy.
Today, an estimated 500 million people in Africa are without access to formal financial services; less than 50% of the adult population make or receive digital payments in Africa, and more than 40 million merchants do not accept digital payments.
Visa and Visa Foundation were dedicated to expanding financial inclusion by empowering small-business and women-led entrepreneurship in Africa through various programmes.
Since inception, Visa Foundation has committed over US$200m to over 50 countries across various initiatives.
The foundation’s support has also helped partner organisations reach over two million small to medium businesses (SMBs) globally.
In sub-Saharan Africa, notable grants and investments included AfriLabs to support women-led SMBs through a women’s accelerator programme, which would provide technical assistance and access to capital.
Others included Aruwa Capital to provide financing to women-led SMBs in Africa and TLcom TIDE Africa Fund to continue investing in African companies that used technology as a lever to solve Africa’s societal challenges.
Visa has also introduced a series of initiatives to support women’s empowerment together with financial partners. These include a partnership with Vodacom in the Democratic Republic of Congo to empower women with disabilities, a collaboration with the Hand in Hand Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success programme, which supported 8 200 women entrepreneurs over three years, and She’s Next, which brings funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs leading growing SMBs in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.
Shamika Sirimanne, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development director of technology and logistics, and Ratnakar Adhikari, the Enhanced Integrated Framework’s executive director, wrote in an article titled ‘How to Unlock Women’s Potential in the Digital Economy’, that access to a reliable and affordable internet connection is the bedrock of the digital economy.
They said while the gender gap in internet usage has shrunk globally, it remains significant in many developing countries, particularly in least developed countries (LDCs).
Globally, 57% of women used the internet compared with 62% of men, according to the International Telecommunication Union. Of the estimated 2,7 billion people currently unconnected, the majority are women and girls.
And in the LDCs, only 19% of women use the internet as opposed to 31% of men.
Enabling women entrepreneurs in developing countries to partake in the digital economy calls for a multifaceted approach, necessitating collaboration among governments, businesses and civil society.
This approach should aim to provide women with access to digital resources, education, skills and financial support.
“By investing in women’s participation in the digital economy, we can create a more inclusive and equitable global economy that benefits everyone,” they said. – IOL News
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