Real-World Payment Solutions Inside Africa’s First Innovation Studio

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Femi Isaac

Olivia tries on a pair of Mia Lu Goldie sunglasses virtually, in front of excited guests at the Alkebulan mall, inside Visa’s latest innovation studio in Nairobi. She is thrilled to receive a 15 percent discount on her preferred product from George, one of the many eCommerce merchants available at the mail and quickly processed payment, using a QR code.

Two local journalists were seated inside a colorful Matatu, at the mobility Zone of the studio, writing news stories to meet the production deadlines of their media houses. Fitted inside it, is a QR code that can be scanned as payment for transport fares to various destinations. The Matatu is Kenya’s most common form of public transportation and comprises privately owned minibuses, plying various routes to different parts of the country. Akshay Shopra, Head of Innovation and Design for Visa CEMEA, says Scan-to-pay and tap-to-pay solutions, powered by Visa are being used to enable transit in over 450 cities across the world.

Elsewhere in the studio, three of Africa’s biggest names in the technology and payment ecosystem Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, Managing Director at M-Pesa Africa, Tayo Oviosu, Founder and CEO of Paga and Uzoma Dozie, founder and CEO of Sparkle, took turns to admire the array of beautiful, high-quality fabrics, at the African Patterns section of the mall, in all their uniqueness.

Making payments will only get simpler and easier

It is going to be completely simpler and easier for people to exchange value and do commerce together”, said Tayo, while speaking on the role that innovation plays in advancing the payment ecosystem. “If we can get smartphone penetration to increase even further, we are going to see greater digitization, and this will inspire a lot more innovation across the continent” Tayo concluded.

Nana Abban, Ecobank’s Group Executive for Consumer Banking agrees completely. With proven expertise in Digital Retail Banking strategy formulation and execution, she believes that there is need to move strongly from a heavy cash-led economy in Africa to one that is cash-lite or even cash-less.

For, Visa the Innovation Studio is a realization of the company’s vision to be the engine of commerce and to provide individuals, businesses, and economies the access they need to thrive. Visa’s Innovation Centers have been instrumental in the conceptualization and implementation of new business ideas and platforms around the globe.

Several Sub-Saharan Africa companies have already leveraged Visa’s innovation centre capabilities, these include Paga; who collaborated with Visa to co-create a platform that offers tools to small businesses; and Safaricom on a solution to enable 24 million M-PESA users to transact at Visa merchant locations, and 150,000 M-PESA merchants to accept Visa card payments

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Nairobi and Africa, Happy to Partner Visa for Sustainable Innovation

Dr. Patrick Njoroge is the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, for the most part of his administration, focus has been on facilitating the growth of the Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (MSME) sector, which has been the engine of growth for the Kenyan economy. While officially declaring the studio open, Njoroge assured leading Bank executives and financial technology leaders from across Sub-Saharan Africa, that Nairobi and the entire African continent is proud to host Visa and the innovation studio, expressing confidence that the facility will help birth laudable innovations that will advance the African payment landscape greatly.

Njoroge’s belief around the huge progress that the innovation studio will bring to the continent, was strongly reechoed, by a cross section of payment and innovation experts, during a fireside chat hosted by CNBC’s Africa’s Tania Habimana. On Tania’s panel, everyone agreed, that there is need for greater partnerships in enhancing financial inclusion and growing the payment ecosystem to positively impact the advancement of digital commerce and economies.

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Consistently Advancing Digital Payments Adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa

Visa says the new African Innovation Studio supports its commitment to promoting innovation and creating opportunities for clients and fintech partners to co-create market-relevant payment and commerce solutions throughout the region.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is a fast-growing region with a tech-savvy population. 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 Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President & Head of Visa in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“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,” added Diarra.

Guests from the innovation studio, would later go on to unwind at the picnic sites of the Nairobi National Park amidst “Jambo” chants and delightful entertainment from live performers. The Visa innovation Studio maybe a week old yet, but the progress that it will enable for young co-creators and innovators will live on for generations.

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