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Visa opens its first Africa based innovation studio 

Global digital payments facilitator Visa is expanding into the region by opening its first innovation studio in Kenya. The aim is to adopt the market of consumers switching to new payment platforms and digital wallets.

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A new Visa innovation studio in Nairobi will be the first dedicated site in Sub-Saharan Africa. The facility will serve the region and become a part of a global network of innovation centres in cities such as Dubai, Singapore, and San Francisco.

Visa is known for using technology and innovation to make digital payments a reality for consumers, businesses, banks, and governments. The service is especially pertinent in the age of regular business travel and a globalised gig economy.

According to a CPA Practice Advisor 2021 analysis, digital payments are expected to surge to $10.5 trillion by 2025. This is possible with the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile internet.

The Nairobi studio will bring together developers, Visa’s internal and external clients, and other partners to co-create payment and commerce solutions. Given the success of Kenya’s mobile payments and digital banking integration, Visa seems primed to tap into the high penetration rates.


Senior vice president and head of Visa in Sub-Saharan Africa, Aida Diarra, said the studio will assist in increasing the market in the region by issuing digital and physical Visas to its clients.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is a fast-growing region with a tech-savvy population and as we continue to grow digital payments adoption in the region, our aspiration is to deepen our collaboration with clients and partners in developing solutions that are designed around the unique needs of Africa,” said Diarra.

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“As a brand built on technology, Visa has driven the major technology advancements that make electronic payments what they are today. We are confident that the innovation studio will continue that legacy and cement Sub-Saharan Africa’s position as a leader in creating out-of-the-box solutions to deal with our most pressing challenges as a region.”

Fintechs in the country have made the task of borrowing, transferring, and accessing money a minute-long endeavour. Kenyans can easily make and receive digital payments without lengthy documentation and third-party verification from anywhere with a network connection. These secure and easy payment options drive the informal sector as small entrepreneurs can access real-time funds and sell their products and services to customers across the country or even across different countries.

Visa’s existing innovation hubs have designed products for the African market, but collaboration with African actors is picking up. For example, they partnered with Nigerian Fintech ‘Paga’ (a mobile payment company, which allows fast international money transfers directly to mobile devices via mobile money wallet) to develop new merchant acceptance solutions involving QR codes and Near-field communication (NFC) technology. Last year, Visa also partnered with Kenya’s leading telecommunications provider Safaricom to allow its 150,000 mobile money (M-Pesa) merchants to accept card payments.

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