She’s Next: Shining a Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs
Visa's She's Next program, aimed at empowering women to start and manage their own businesses, continues to expand around the world. And this is particularly the case in the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, where more than 560 women have been supported so far.
Each one of those women represents a business being given a chance to flourish, taking on new staff, serving its customers and contributing to GDP.
Highlights from the MENA region
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, for example, Visa last summer awarded grants of $10,000 each to 20 women business founders, along with a year's mentorship from the US-based funding platform IFundWomen1.
These included Hafsa Qadeer, CEO of ImInclusive, which provides recruitment and training services to help companies become more inclusive - she was inspired to start the company by her wheelchair-using brother, she says2.
Meanwhile, Laila Hasaballah, whose company Bellies En Route offers food tours in Cairo, hopes to use her grant to broaden her business3.
"We're working on expanding to other parts of Egypt to be able to expand in terms of opportunities for the locals, as well as foreigners' experience of Egypt, especially through cooking experiences," she says. "We're also working on expanding existing products to make them accessible for a wider market, and that's why we are offering our tourism in French4."
A focus on Africa
In South, East and West Africa, Visa is helping women fund managers find the working capital they need by providing a grant to the African Women Impact Fund, a collaboration between Standard Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
This is particularly important, given that African women account for just 7.6 percent of private equity, with women-led businesses attracting only seven percent of private equity and venture capital in emerging markets5.
"The economic empowerment of women is essential to raising Africa's economic output and creating sustainable jobs, especially within the small enterprises that drive growth on the continent," says Lindeka Dzedze, global markets head, strategic partnerships, at Standard Bank Group.
Supporting women entrepreneurs in Ukraine
Meanwhile, a survey of countries across Central Asia, as well as Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, reveals just how much women strive for professional and financial independence. While half said their main motivation was to make more money, three in ten said it was a desire to work for themselves, and one in five that it was the fulfilment of a dream6.
In Kazakhstan, Visa has teamed up with Halyk Bank to issue cards with low fees for women entrepreneurs, and provide business development loans of up to 20 million tenge (US$44,467) at just five percent per annum – the first initiative of its kind in the world7.
But it’s Ukraine that has become a particularly urgent focus for the She's Next program, following the Russian invasion in February 2022, which led to millions of women losing their homes and jobs.
Within weeks, Visa began supporting Ukrainian women through a partnership with Projector Creative & Tech Foundation, a local initiative aimed at providing 5,000 displaced women with the educational opportunities to start a career in the creative and tech industries8.
Visa has now financed education grants for 56 Ukrainian women to launch a new career by studying motion design, mobile apps design and IT project management, and has offered internships to two9.
Nataliia Ievtushenko, who had worked in the travel industry for 15 years, was one of these, and was able to make a major career shift to become part of the Visa Products team.
"My team and everybody I met at Visa were very helpful and open and always ready to explain everything I needed to know," she says. "I felt myself more confident, brave, open-minded. Now I am convinced that everything I can imagine is real10."
Meanwhile, grant-winner Antonina Orynenko, the other internship winner, has joined Visa's marketing team. She says the experience has broadened her horizons, particularly by allowing her to work on marketing projects on a far larger scale than she'd experienced before.
"I was absolutely impressed with how the team helped me learn new things about business processes, tasks and rules at every stage," she says. "I have never seen colleagues so invested into newcomers at any other company11."
As the She's Next program continues to grow, in CEMEA and beyond, Visa expects to see many more such stories of success.
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1Women entrepreneurs can fuel economic growth in MENA, Visa, 12 October 2022, https://km.visamiddleeast.com/en_KM/visa-everywhere/blog/bdp/2022/10/12/women-entrepreneurs-can-1665559300827.html
2Visa, FAB and DBWC announce five winners of first UAE edition of Visa She's Next program, Zawya, 21 September 2022, https://www.zawya.com/en/press-release/companies-news/visa-fab-and-dbwc-announce-five-winners-of-first-uae-edition-of-visa-shes-next-program-scs39bex
3Visa and CIB announce five recipients of first Egypt edition of Visa She's Next program, Zawya, 12 September 2022, https://www.zawya.com/en/press-release/companies-news/visa-and-cib-announce-five-recipients-of-first-egypt-edition-of-visa-shes-next-program-fdvq2yux
4She's Next: Spotlighting Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East, Forbes Middle East, 26 September 2022, She's Next: Spotlighting Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East - YouTube
5Visa announces grant to help African women fund managers grow their businesses, Visa, August / September 2022, https://africa.visa.com/about-visa/newsroom/press-releases/prl-12082022.html
6New Visa and Emerging Europe survey reveals women entrepreneurs want to develop their digital skills and take their businesses international, 1 March 2023, Emerging Europe, https://emerging-europe.com/pressroom/new-visa-and-emerging-europe-survey-reveals-what-women-entrepreneurs-want/
7AIFC Tech Hub, Visa and Halyk Bank launch Business Leadership marathon to support women entrepreneurs in Central Asia, AIFC, 19 September 2022, https://aifc.kz/en/news/aifc-tech-hub-visa-and-halyk-bank-launch-business-leadership-marathon-to-support-women-entrepreneurs-in-central-asia
8The Projector Foundation launched the first training groups for women with the support of the She's Next Empowered by Visa program, Visa, 19 May 2022, https://www.visa.com.ua/uk_UA/about-visa/newsroom/press-releases/prl-19052022_ua.html
9She’s Next in CISSEE: Visa Corporate Communications, December 2022
10She’s Next in CISSEE: Visa Corporate Communications, December 2022
11She’s Next in CISSEE: Visa Corporate Communications, December 2022