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Visa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of global payments technology company Visa, has pledged $1 million from its $200 million Equitable Access Initiative to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) owned by women in Sub-Saharan Africa. The funding aims to address the significant gap in venture capital investment for women-led startups in the region.

According to the World Bank, while Africa has the highest growth rate of businesses run by women, they receive just 1% of venture capital funding. Visa Foundation’s grant will be used to fund AfriLabs’ RevUp Women Initiative, which supports early-stage, female-led startups, and the Graca Machel Trust’s “Women Creating Wealth” enterprise development program in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa.

Unique Challenges Faced by Africa’s Female Entrepreneurs

Women business owners in Africa continue to face unique challenges that impede their access to markets, finance, technology, and networks. Patriarchy, cultural norms, and unconscious bias are some of the challenges that women-led SMBs face in the region. These challenges were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with women-led SMBs being the hardest hit. According to Janade Du Plessis, General Partner at pan-African venture capital fund Launch Africa Ventures, female founders received just 0.7% of fundraising raised by startups in Africa in 2021, equivalent to $18 million out of nearly $2.7 billion.

Initiatives to Combat Capital Apartheid

Visa Foundation’s grant aims to address the gender investment gap in Africa by supporting women-led SMBs in the region. Through its Equitable Access Initiative, Visa Foundation seeks to provide more opportunities for underserved communities, particularly women and small businesses, to thrive in the global economy. The initiative is part of Visa’s commitment to invest $1 billion in Africa to boost the continent’s digital transformation, introduce new technologies, deepen partnerships, and scale operations.

The funding will be distributed to AfriLabs and Graca Machel Trust, two organizations that are working to close the gender investment gap by supporting women-led SMBs in Africa. AfriLabs will use the funds to support its RevUp Women Initiative, which provides support to early-stage, female-led startups, while Graca Machel Trust will use its share of the funding to expand its enterprise development program “Women Creating Wealth” in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa to reach 100 women-led SMBS.

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