Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Oct 28, 2013


Cherie Blair on New Mobile Financial Services Initiative for Women in Nigeria


This week I’m speaking at the Financial Inclusion 2020 Summit, an event that is promoting a global campaign to bring ordinary financial services – banking, credit cards, pensions, etc – to more than 2 billion people around the world who are currently excluded from these everyday services.

It’s an issue that is particularly important to me and my Foundation for Women, which promotes women entrepreneurs in the less developed parts of the world, and through which I’ve learned how hard it is for women to run a business without banking facilities. More than that, everyone needs financial services to manage their day-to-day lives and prepare for a better future. But very few in middle-income and especially low-income countries enjoy the access to quality services from formal financial service providers that many of us take for granted.

In wealthier countries, nearly 90% of the population have basic bank accounts. Most middle-class people are supported at every turn by financial services – such as credit cards for everyday purchases, mortgages to buy a home, quick and easy payment services, insurance or pensions. But in low and middle-income countries, the story is different.

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to quality financial services and at least half of that number will include women. If we want to make an impact on financial inclusion, that effort has to include women. Recent research findings from my own foundation, Visa, BFA and GSMA show that not only are women missing out on access to mobile financial services, they are also missing out on the retail opportunities related to these services.

In partnership with Visa, my foundation aims to address this gap, with a focus on Nigeria. Our project will result in 2,500 women becoming agents in the retail network of a leading financial services provider. As retail agents, they will bring branchless banking and mobile financial services to tens of thousands more women in Nigeria. Alongside the retail agent opportunities, the women involved will also benefit from training and capacity building support.

Our primary aim is to enable a greater number of women entrepreneurs to enter the electronic payment value chain in Nigeria – a sector that is set to grow tremendously in the coming months and years.

Why start in Nigeria? Women in Nigeria experience cultural, social and systemic barriers to entrepreneurship including poor infrastructure, lack of connectivity and other barriers. Three times as many men as women have the benefits of being registered as self-employed in the country, and while there are women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, the majority of them are forced to operate in the informal sector. This collaboration would offer opportunities for women to set up registered businesses in a growing sector.

There is a commercial opportunity as well. With only 30% of Nigeria’s population (84.7 million) using banking services and with more than 159 million mobile phone subscriptions, there is great potential for agent banking and other models which enable remote access to financial services in the country. This is as yet an untapped market representing a multi-million dollar industry.

This partnership is a significant step forward towards financial inclusion for women in Nigeria. Economically empowering women by giving them access to the same financial services as men,  is not only a smart way to raise the status of women and their quality of life but also brings benefits to the families and communities of the women who succeed. My foundation is looking forward to developing this project further and driving financial inclusion for women in Nigeria.


Posted by: Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on October 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Jul 22, 2013

Expanding Access to Electronic Payments in India

It is well-known now that mobile technology has changed the face of electronic payments in emerging markets. For the past decade, mobile phones have been instrumental in providing unbanked and under-banked consumers with secure, reliable and convenient ways to pay and be paid. Although a lot of progress has been made, here in India, more than 40 percent of the urban population is still unbanked and nearly 90 percent of commerce is still cash-based.

Visa and its clients in India are making great strides to change this reality. Recent stats from the Reserve Bank of India prove that progress: there are now 350 million payment cards activated in the country, many of these in rural areas, and penetration of electronic payments is rising. Through our joint venture with Monitise – Movida – we are enabling financial institutions in India to offer consumers to make payments via mobile phone. In fact, earlier today, Movida announced a new agreement with ICICI Bank to offer mobile payments to its customers in India. Everyday transactions like buying tickets, paying a bill or recharging a wireless account can now be made with any mobile phone, not just smartphones.

Because the service is designed to operate across all mobile networks using any payment card – both Visa and non-Visa – we expect that Indian consumers will be able to wave goodbye to long queues while visiting the post office or paying their bills at automated tellers. These transactions, along with insurance premium and other recurring payments, are now available securely and conveniently to clients of ICICI Bank directly via their mobile phones.

As India continues to expand and upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure to rural areas, more Indian consumers will have access to secure and reliable electronic payments and financial services via a mobile phone– a critical step in the migration from cash to more convenient, secure forms of payment.   

In the long run, electronic payments will help to drive financial inclusion and fuel economic development and growth in our country. It is an exciting time and at Visa, we are proud to play a role in the transformation of India.


Posted by: Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager, Visa Inc. on July 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Feb 13, 2013

Visa Accelerates Access to Financial Services

Extending the benefits of electronic payments to more people has always been a priority for Visa. This morning we took a major step toward giving unbanked consumers in developing countries access to the security and reliability of electronic payments and financial services.

Visa today announced the launch of a new service that makes it easy and cost-effective for financial institutions and mobile network operators in developing countries to offer unbanked consumers access to financial services by linking a virtual account that is tied to a consumers’ mobile-phone number. Aircel and ICICI in India, as well as Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Banks in Rwanda are the first to take advantage of this service.

Why is this important? The ability to pay a utility bill, send money to a relative living in another country, or withdraw money at an ATM by simply texting payment instructions to the bank is a game changer for consumers in countries where cash has been the only form of payment, and where paying bills usually means standing in line for hours.

This is just the beginning. More than 2 billion consumers worldwide are unbanked, many of whom own a mobile phone. It is the ubiquity of mobile technology, especially in developing countries, that is finally making it possible for us to extend financial services to the unbanked. Today’s announcement is a great example of Visa’s role in this journey, which is to harness mobile technology to enable financial institutions and mobile operators to drive access to formal financial services and electronic payments.

For more information about Visa Mobile Managed Service, click here.


Posted by: Jim McCarthy, Head of Global Product, Visa Inc. on February 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Nov 12, 2012

Open Mobile Summit: One Minute With Visa’s Michele Janes

This week, luminaries from the mobile industry met in San Francisco for the annual Open Mobile Summit.  From 4G to mCommerce to the future of mobile devices and mobile advertising, a broad range of topics were debated by some of the leading representatives in the mobile space.

One topic that  was covered in great detail was the future of mobile payments.  Continuing a conversation that held recently at Money2020 Visa’s Michele Janes joined panelists from PayPal, American Express, Google and Home Depot to provide perspective and strategies for addressing this important subject.  Moderated by analyst Greg Sterling, the panel titled “Wallet Wars: Mobile Payments From Theory to Practice” discussed a wide variety of issues including important elements for mobile payments adoption and how companies like Visa are working with mobile operators to offer solutions to reach the world’s unbanked.

We caught up with Michele following the conference to get her insights into Visa’s efforts to bring mobile payments to consumers in emerging markets.


Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on November 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

Aug 14, 2012

CNN’s “Marketplace Africa” Talks Mobile Technology With Visa’s Elizabeth Buse

Elizabeth Buse, Visa’s Group President, APCEMEA, recently sat down with CNN’s “Marketplace Africa” to discuss the importance of mobile technology in reaching the unbanked.

In the segment, Buse also explains Visa’s distinguishing characteristics in comparison to other mobile money programs and the role that financial education plays in enabling people to take full advantage of having access to financial services.

Watch the segment here:


Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on August 14, 2012 at 9:12 am

May 31, 2012

Pathways to an inclusive cash lite world


 By David Porteous, Bankable Frontier Associates

David Porteous, founder and director of Bankable Frontier Associates, shares his perspective on the importance of scale and interoperability as catalysts for financial inclusion. His consulting firm is dedicated to eradicating the barriers that prevent the poor from accessing  financial services, and they partner with us in our efforts to promote financial inclusion. 


Posted by: David Porteous, Bankable Frontier Associates on May 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm

May 9, 2012

Celebrating 10 Years of Banking the Unbanked

Ten years ago today the world’s first mobile financial service in a developing economy went live. Launched by Celpay in Zambia in 2002, and powered by Fundamo, a Visa company, the pioneering service ushered in a movement that has revolutionized the way financial services reach unbanked and under-banked populations.

As the mobile financial services community celebrates 10 years of banking the unbanked, we wanted to take a moment at Visa to recognize the progress that has been made. In 10 years, 100 million people have been newly “banked” using mobile technology. That forecast is expected to double over the next two years.

Celpay International now provides mobile financial services to consumers and corporate customers. Since its launch, Celpay has processed in excess of $2 billion in mobile payments, expanded into Zimbabwe and Uganda, and counts global brands such as SABMiller, Total and BP as customers.

Those numbers underscore the importance of the work Visa is doing in developing economies to expand the opportunities mobile offers. Visa and Fundamo now offer consumers new payment types and services that are secure and interoperable with existing closed-loop mobile money services. New payment types included global and domestic remittances, eCommerce purchases, and ATM withdrawals.

Most importantly, today’s milestone gives us the chance not only to look back on successes, but also forward to the opportunities ahead. Today, 2.5 billion adults lack access to formal financial services, and have to piece together an array of costly, risky, and inconvenient cash-based options.

While the last 10 years have seen tremendous progress, our hope is that 10 years from today we’ll celebrate even greater momentum.


Posted by: Hannes Van Rensburg, Head of Fundamo on May 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

Nov 30, 2011

Visa Joins Public-Private partnership to Help Close the Mobile Phone Gender Gap

Visa is proud to join a new partnership to improve the lives of women in developing countries. Announced today, the GSMA mWomen Global Development Alliance brings Visa together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and GSMA Foundation in a partnership to close the gender gap in access to mobile phones and the life-enhancing services they can provide. The partnership’s goals include reducing the mobile phone gender gap by 50% and enabling an additional 150 million underserved women in developing countries to own and effectively use mobile phones and their services, including mobile financial services.

Today, half the world’s adult population—2.5 billion people—lacks access to basic financial services. An estimated 70% of the financially underserved are women. Being financially excluded means relying on cash, where a simple task like paying a bill or receiving money from a family member can be risky, costly and time consuming. Financial exclusion also reinforces the cycle of poverty and slows economic growth. And women in developing economies often bear the greater burden of these impacts.

Mobile technology already is demonstrating the potential to change that. By 2012, 1.7 billion people are expected to own a mobile phone but will not have a bank account. Around the world, we already have begun to see the power that mobile technology can have in extending the reach of digital currency, providing the unbanked with tools for payments and other life-enhancing financial services and bringing new participants into the global financial system. This is, in part, why Visa has been investing in mobile, including our recent acquisition of Fundamo and the launch a new product tailored to the needs of consumers in developing countries— a prepaid account that can be accessed through a simple menu on a mobile phone.

Yet, while mobile financial services offer an unparalleled opportunity to advance financial inclusion, there is a global gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage, with women 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. The only way mobile will help improve the lives of women at the base of the pyramid is if we work to close the mobile phone gender gap.

The partnership announced today further strengthens our commitment to advancing financial inclusion not only through product innovation, but also by partnering with some of the world’s leading organizations to better understand the challenges of the financially underserved, share our payments expertise and support programs that deliver basic financial services. We look forward to sharing developments from this partnership as it progresses.

For more information and the official press release, click here.


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on November 30, 2011 at 6:34 am