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Visa launches Africa’s first innovation center in Nairobi



By Judith Gicobi

Visa, the world’s largest digital payments company, has built its first innovation studio in Kenya, with the aim to increase its presence in the region.

To co-create payment and commerce solutions, the studio will bring together developers, Visa’s internal and external clients, and other partners.

The hub’s opening in Kenya is part of a drive to win customer base as consumers migrate to alternative payment systems and digital wallets, which might bypass card networks or restrict revenue growth.

Visa teamed with Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telco, last year to allow the company’s 150,000 M-Pesa merchants to accept card payments.

After posts in Dubai, London, Miami, San Francisco, and Singapore, the Nairobi studio is the first in Africa and the sixth worldwide.

Aida Diarra, senior vice president and head of Visa in Sub-Saharan Africa, said the facility will help grow the Visa business in the region by providing digital and physical Visa to its customers.

“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.

“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.”

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Visa has already used its current innovation hubs to build products for the African market, such as a partnership with Nigerian Fintech Paga to develop new merchant acceptance solutions based on QR codes and NFC technology.

Local and multinational firms, as well as governments, are launching such innovation centers across Africa as a method of producing new products through collaborations and remaining globally competitive.

Similar laboratories are established by companies like Cisco and Philips in Nairobi, and the Kenyan government is creating a technology metropolis called Konza City to foster innovation in the country.

Meanwhile, in Africa’s start-up powerhouse, Nigeria, a slew of innovation hubs have sprouted, with a concentration in and around Lagos, the country’s cultural and commercial center. Nigeria is home to some of the continent’s biggest names, including Andela, a tech-jobs network, Flutterwave, and Jumia, an e-commerce site.

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