Visa, the payments technology firm and Branch, the mobile lending platform, have announced a partnership that will see virtual Visa prepaid debit cards offered to over 2 million consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This partnership represents Visa’s broader strategy to collaborate with and invest in rapidly growing FinTech companies that are reaching consumers and merchants not previously addressed by traditional financial services.
As a part of the agreement, Branch will also implement Visa payment services into its platform, to give consumers the ability to make payments using a card or a mobile phone. The move is part of Visa’s strategy to leverage mobile to digitize payments and is expected to pave the way for cash-free payments.
Commenting on the announcement, Visa’s VP for Strategic Partnerships, Fintech and Ventures, Otto Williams said: “Traditional barriers such as a credit score and bank account make financial accessibility a challenge for millions of people in Kenya and the region. By focusing on digitizing payments, we aim to build a more digitally inclusive ecosystem. We are confident that our collaboration with Branch will deliver on seamless access to finance for the unbanked.’’
Branch will also offer preferential loan terms to Visa merchants who accept Visa on mobile QR codes in Kenya. Branch will extend this service to additional geographies in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically Tanzania and Nigeria. The loans will provide merchants with funds to grow their business through supplemental stock, infrastructure investment, and other key operational needs. Loans will be disbursed to Visa virtual credentials attached to merchants’ phones.
“With this partnership we seek to offer value beyond just transactions. We would like to help merchants grow their business and drive financial inclusion among the small merchant segments that are often unable to access quick loans,” Williams added.
Branch CEO Mathew Flannery said: “At Branch, we think our innovative mobile financial app will be able to provide consumers and merchants access to financial services thereby creating a larger and more robust open loop payments ecosystem for all participants. It only makes sense to be working together with Visa to bring world-class financial services to merchants here in Kenya and beyond.”
Branch has helped unlock financial access for thousands of people around Africa and is currently among the most popular loan application channels. With smartphone growth usage at an all-time high, Branch has taken a unique opportunity to build customer-first financial products for people worldwide.
The partnership will among others; grow and differentiate acceptance in Kenya through expansion of merchant lending programs as well as expand Visa virtual card issuance and usage through Branch loan disbursements.
Visa is a global payments technology company that connects consumers, businesses, financial institutions, and governments in more than 200 countries and territories to fast, secure and reliable electronic payments. It operate one of the world’s most advanced processing networks – VisaNet – that is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second, with fraud protection for consumers and assured payment for merchants. Visa is not a bank and does not issue cards, extend credit or set rates and fees for consumers. Visa’s innovations, however, enable its financial institution customers to offer consumers more choices: pay now with debit, pay ahead with prepaid or pay later with credit products.
Branch offers loans via mobile phones. With offices in Nairobi, San Francisco, Mexico City and Lagos, Branch uses data science to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering financial services in emerging markets. Founded by the pioneers of micro lending and with leaders with deep finance and technology expertise, Branch has received more than $80 million in investment from top-tier firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Trinity Ventures, IFC, Victory Park Capital, Barium Capital, 8.vc, Khosla Ventures and CreditEase.