Wednesday 21, June 2017 by Georgina Enzer

Visa launches initiative in MENA to foster regional payments innovation and fintech entrepreneurship

Visa announced that its Everywhere Initiative, an innovation programme designed to encourage the development of the “next big thing” in payments, will expand into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Entrants in Visa’s first-ever MENA Everywhere Initiative will have the opportunity to compete for a chance to win up to $50,000 to support a development programme with Visa, or through business partnership with Visa’s clients, and potentially have access to Visa APIs, executive mentors and technologists.

“In a highly dynamic industry, Visa’s Everywhere Initiative allows us to explore a host of ideas that solve business challenges, influence our product roadmaps, support our customers, and shape our culture of innovation,” said Kamran Siddiqi, Group Executive - Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa, Visa.

Currently, over 50 Fintech startups are operating in MENA, with a majority of them from four main Fintech hubs – UAE, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, with the UAE leading in frontier technology startup sectors including money transfer, wealth management, insurance and cryptocurrency.

“With over a hundred million dollars invested over the past ten years alone, the region’s Fintech industry is on the brink of a transformative breakthrough, and we believe the time is ripe to bring together its brightest minds and work on the next big idea in payments technology.  With a clear goal of enabling cashless economies and financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering MENA’s entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape,” added Karl Tlais, Senior Director - Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa, Visa.

Beginning today, Visa invites eligible participants in the MENA region to submit their business solutions that apply to one of the following three briefs:

  • Challenge #1. Acceptance Challenge. How can start-ups leverage Visa APIs for either:

Enabling smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally, OR

Providing a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive ecommerce and reduce cash on delivery?

  • Challenge #2. Airport Transit challenge. How can startups leverage Visa’s APIs, mobile technologies and connected devices to transform their transit experience at airports?
  • Challenge #3. Loyalty Challenge. How can startups make it easier for consumers to select the right Visa card for their purchases and be notified about the right Visa offers and benefits at the right time?

Each challenge has been structured keeping in mind the niche dynamics of the local landscape. As the region’s domestic merchants rapidly expand their digital commerce proposition, payment gateways also must evolve at a neck-to-neck speed to offer their customers a hassle-free shopping experience.

MENA being home to the busiest travel hubs in the world, including Dubai International Airport which has introduced biometrics and other smart technologies, has significant untapped potential to make its travel experience simpler and faster.  

Lastly, in an increasingly competitive startup market, loyalty programmes have become one of the key ways to retain old customers and acquire new ones. Payment rewards being integral to these programmes, have a lot of scope to become intuitive and responsive to cardholders’ needs.

One winner per brief will be selected, and each will receive a $25,000 cash prize. Winners of the prize will be invited to a working meeting with Visa, and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional $25,000.

Visa’s Everywhere Initiative is part of a global implementation that is strategically important to the global payments company’s goal of fostering the growth of next generation payment technologies. Currently, it has nearly fifteen hundred participating Fintech startups across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Features & Analyses