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Visa picks Nairobi for Africa's first innovation studio to advance payment solutions

By Wainaina Wambu | Apr 7th 2022 | 3 min read
By Wainaina Wambu | April 7th 2022


Akshay Chopra, the Vice President and Head of Innovation for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) with Dr Patrick Njoroge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya at the newly opened Visa Innovation Studio in Nairobi on April 6, 2022. [Visa]


Global payments giant Visa has opened an innovation studio in Nairobi – the first in Africa – aimed at co-developing digital payments and commerce solutions.

The facility, which will serve the continent’s sub-Saharan region, is part of a network of global innovation centres operated by Visa since 2016 in locations including San Francisco, Miami, London, Dubai and Singapore.

Visa Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Aida Diarra explained that the facility would support the firm’s commitment to innovation and create opportunities for clients and fintech partners to co-create market-relevant payment and commerce solutions across the region.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is a fast-growing region with a tech-savvy population. 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.”

Akshay Chopra, the Vice President and Head of Innovation for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) at Visa and Olivia Etyang, the Head of Innovation (Sub Saharan Africa) at Visa, demonstrate the variety of shopping from the comfort of your home using Visa’s payments technology to Dr Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, at the newly launched Visa Innovation Studio in Nairobi. [Visa]


“As a brand built on technology, Visa has driven the major technological 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,” she said at the launch on Wednesday.

Ideas to expand the growth of emerging payment areas such as Tap to Phone and Pay on Delivery will be explored at the innovation studio alongside the ongoing development of cutting-edge smarter payment solutions that leverage blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality and Biometrics.

Through a human-centred approach, the studio’s immersive environment will also provide clients and partners with tools to overcome some of their biggest business hurdles while uncovering new commercial avenues of opportunity.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge commended Visa for picking Kenya as the regional centre for the innovation studio.

“If it (innovation) happens in Kenya it will also happen in other sub-Saharan African countries. That’s why it’s important to test things here and have the innovation studio here,” he said.

He pointed out a long term relationship with Visa in terms of raising the quality of Kenya's cyber security saying that CBK had been working with the firm, local banks and payment service providers to strengthen the digital finance infrastructure.

Olivia Etyang, the Head of Innovation (Sub Saharan Africa) at Visa, demonstrates the different ways in which Visa’s payments technology enables payments on public transport to Dr Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of Central Bank of Kenya, at the newly launched Visa Innovation Studio in Nairobi. [Visa]


CBK recently launched its National Payments Strategy for the next three years which aims for a secure, fast, efficient and collaborative payments system that supports financial inclusion and innovations that benefit Kenyans.

He urged Visa and other innovators to ensure that their technology is people-centric, solves problems and deepens financial inclusion.

Several sub-Saharan African companies have leveraged Visa’s innovation centre capabilities these include Paga which collaborated with Visa to co-create a platform that offers tools to small businesses and Safaricom on a solution to enable 24 million M-Pesa users to transact at Visa merchant locations and 150,000 M-Pesa merchants to accept Visa card payments.

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