Visa Foundation Unveils $20m Women SME Support Initiative

By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Finance) – The Visa Foundation has set aside $20 million finance initiative to support Women’s World Banking. The newly-incorporated Visa Foundation, has been established as part of Visa’s larger social impact strategy that will prioritise the growth of micro and small enterprises around the world, enabling individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive.

At the heart of the Visa Foundation is the belief that micro and small enterprises are the backbone of the global economy which accounts for more than 90 per cent of enterprises worldwide, and contribute 50-60 per cent of global employment.

The Foundation hopes to address some of the challenges facing the sector which includes lack of access to financial tools, capital and training programs needed to enable them to fully thrive.

“As a brand and a business, Visa has always stood for making a positive and transformational impact on the world,” said Al Kelly, chief executive officer for Visa and Visa Foundation board member. “The Visa Foundation has been established to build on a long history of corporate giving and will accelerate the delivery of our social impact goals. Our intention is to establish a legacy of meaningful contributions by helping millions of microenterprises thrive.”

The Visa Foundation’s first multi-year initiative will be a five-year, up to $20 million grant to Women’s World Banking aimed at supporting millions of women-led small and micro enterprises.

Despite their contribution to both the formal and informal economy worldwide, women-owned micro and small businesses are unserved or underserved financially. According to the World Bank there is a staggering $300 billion annual credit deficit for formal sector women-owned small and medium sized businesses.
Financial products such as savings, credit and insurance can help low-income women to build their assets, grow their businesses, and ensure economic resilience in challenging times.

With the Visa Foundation’s support, Women’s World Banking will develop sustainable solutions for women entrepreneurs to build their enterprises and establish financial safety nets while also advancing leadership skills and financial capabilities.

Over the next five years, the program will develop, test and scale innovative and sustainable products, that may include bundled financial services, business continuity insurance and technology-based solutions that drive positive financial behaviors

The initiative is also expected to expand Women’s World Banking’s global network of partner financial service providers to effectively serve 50 million more financially underserved individuals. It will furthermore measure the impact that having access to improved financial services has on women enterprise owners as well as drive knowledge sharing, innovation and best practices within the global community on how to best support small and micro enterprises

The Visa Foundation grant is designed to support Women’s World Banking’s efforts around the world, with an initial focus in India, Mexico, Egypt and Nigeria, as key markets to drive growth among low-income, women-owned small enterprises.

“Women and women-owned businesses continue to be disproportionately excluded from accessing formal financial services, impacting hundreds of millions of individuals with a significant effect on families and communities.” said Stephen Kehoe, Visa’s senior vice president for global financial inclusion.

Kehoe who spoke at Women’s World Banking Making Finance Work for Women Global Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania said, “By supporting measures to include women, there is a strong multiplier effect in terms of increased financial health for all. For this reason, the Visa Foundation chose to focus its first grant on women-owned enterprises and has selected Women’s World Banking as our first grant recipient.”

“Women’s World Banking is thrilled to be Visa Foundation’s inaugural grantee. We share a vision to serve low-income women entrepreneurs whose contribution to economic growth is far below its potential,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

Ellen said further: “One billion women worldwide are unbanked, a significant number of them business owners. Through this partnership, we will deliver solutions that drive women’s access and usage of innovative financial services, so that they create economic opportunity for themselves and their families.”

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