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Carl Manlan, Social Impact for Visa in Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa

December 2022


4 - 5 Minutes

Driving Digital Equity for a More Financially Inclusive Future

Technological innovation is so powerful, it continues to transform our world in ways we never thought possible. Whether it is the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI), agile, reliable mobile networks or digital payments—the complexity of digital adoption and integration requires continuous shifts in how the world views and pursues innovation. However, there is one vital ingredient to ensuring the success of digital technologies: human capital.

Broadly described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the ability to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information, digital skills enable individuals and entrepreneurs, for example, to communicate and collaborate, globally and instantaneously. Within finance, the evolution of digital financial services represents an opportunity to reach previously excluded and underserved populations, but digital skills and tools are crucial to ensure that everyone can become financially included.

During the pandemic, the world moved towards online channels1, with global studies indicating that digital adoption rates were years ahead of what had previously been recorded. COVID-19 accelerated the growth of an already thriving eCommerce sector2, which was especially true in the UAE, KSA and Egypt – with consumers demanding online payment options and merchants increasingly recognizing the need for an online presence. While human capital determines the success of digital transformation, the benefits are only accessible to those who are connected.

With a mission to empower more people and businesses to thrive in a digital-first world, Visa works towards enhancing equitable access for digital financial equity across communities. By expanding digital financial education content, training programs, and purpose-driven partnerships, we have been committed to ensuring that financial education and digital upskilling are available to everyone, wherever they are. This is in line with our purpose to uplift everyone, everywhere with the right skills and tools to thrive in the digital economy.

Harnessing The Digital Potential
In Africa, transformative growth requires scaling up digitization, and the pandemic has furthered that notion. Despite the availability of opportunities, access remains an issue of great concern—technologies such as 5G, virtual reality and AI-related applications point to the reality of a digital divide. In 2021, only 33 percent of the continent’s population was using the internet3 and so, for them, the power of such technologies cannot be actualized. Consequentially, the economies where they reside cannot harness the power of digital as a driver for economic growth and innovation. Organizations such as Smart Africa seek to help the continent move towards an ICT- and knowledge-driven economy by improving access to information and communications technologies.

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted African populations, especially youth, to find innovative digital solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic4, which accelerated the adoption of digital banking technology and services. Although cash is still widely used in Africa, the continent’s domestic e-payments market is expected to see revenues grow by approximately 20 percent per year, reaching around $40 billion by 20255.

Exploring digitalization and its potential to accelerate UN Sustainable Development Goals on the African continent has led to an increased interest in what video games could do. For example, Côte d’Ivoire-based Paradise Games’ Festival de l’Electronique et du Jeu video d’Abidjan (FEJA), one of the continent’s largest gaming and esports festivals, was created to promote more inclusive economic growth in African countries through the vital driver that is connectivity, and gaming.

Digital Upskilling Through Gamification
At Visa, we understand the impact that teaching through edutainment, or ‘gamification’, may bring to an otherwise potentially less-exciting topic. We have been working with partners to help individuals, as well as small and micro businesses, gain greater access to the digital economy by utilizing such tools.
Part of Visa’s Practical Money Skills, Visa’s free financial education program localized in in 46 countries, and available in 20 languages, we used gamification to roll out virtual game Financial Football in partnership with money management app Edfundo in the UAE. In a launch event held at the Visa Headquarters in Dubai, we brought together 20 students to play a friendly match, with the goal of sharpening their financial skills as young football fans on the virtual pitch. Building on FIFA World Cup™ excitement, Visa has also partnered with WISE, a Qatar Foundation initiative, to launch Financial Football in Qatar.

Leveraging the Power of Purpose-Driven Partnerships
Beyond gamification, Visa has also collaborated with WISE for the 2021 WISE Summit, addressing current education challenges in commitment to giving the young and underprivileged a voice. We have also actively participated in the 2021 Doha Edtech Bootcamp on the sidelines, where I was delighted to take part in a session on financial literacy for youth. In Egypt, we have joined forces with INJAZ to help empower youth on their journey to economic success, with a focus on female students. Visa has also partnered with AIFC Tech Hub and Halyk Bank to launch the Business Leadership marathon, which will support women entrepreneurs in Central Asia.
Our partnership with Shared Value Africa (SVA) and the United States Development Assistance Fund will utilize different digital solutions, such as WhatsApp, making learning accessible even with limited or no internet connectivity. We are also collaborating with the Mauritanian Investment Promotion Agency (APIM) in line with the North African country’s path to growing digital, to upskill self-employed youth and micro businesses, which make up the vast majority of jobs among entrepreneurial households6.

Also, part of Visa’s Practical Money Skills, we have partnered with Marvel to foster financial literacy among younger generations through comic books. Together, we have distributed 1.1 million educational comics worldwide since 2012. Among Visa’s initiatives is also Practical Business Skills (PBS), another platform delivering free education resources to help small businesses and entrepreneurs make confident, informed decisions to grow their businesses, which was expanded across Middle Eastern and African countries through partnerships with governments, financial institutions, and civil society organizations, in different languages.

In Latin America, we partnered with FUNDES to create ENKO, an educational business platform that provides tools and knowledge needed for SMBs to thrive. ENKO is available in Spanish in 20 countries across the region, and more than 100,000 SMBs have participated in the initiative so far, strengthening their business capabilities through the 35 lessons offered on sales, finance, marketing, administration, and personal development. Based on the latest impact study, 81% of users reported increased income from their businesses, and 93% of them attributed this increase to ENKO1.

In Asia-Pacific, we collaborated with The Asia Foundation and AT&T to launch the Accelerate program in Malaysia and Indonesia, an initiative endorsed and supported in Malaysia by the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MECD). Accelerate has helped 6,000 women-led micro, small and micro businesses in rural and remote communities gain practical skills to sustain and grow their businesses.

Such partnerships pave the way for further scaling digital financial literacy programs locally, in environments and communities where people feel safe to start using digital tools to manage their money. At Visa, closing the digital equity gap to allow everyone, everywhere to participate is part of our vision for the future, grounded in our mission to connect the world, enabling individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive.

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All brand names, logos and/or trademarks are the property of their respective owners, are used for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily imply product endorsement or affiliation with Visa.

1- https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever
2- https://legatum.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/170321-MIT-Wamda-E-Commerce-COVID19-report-EN-01.pdf
 3- http://data.un.org/en/reg/g2.html
 4- https://www.un.org/osaa/news/covid-19-chance-leapfrog-africa%E2%80%99s-development-digitalization
 5- https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/the-future-of-payments-in-africa
 6- https://km.visamiddleeast.com/en_KM/visa-everywhere/blog/bdp/2021/12/07/powering-mauritanian-smes-1638869733162.html

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