Visa Everywhere Initiative attracted Egyptian startups, innovators: Visa GM for North Africa and Levant

Hossam Mounir
11 Min Read

Tarek Elhousseiny, Visa’s General Manager for North Africa and Levant, adressed in an interview with Dailynews Egypt, how the  initiative of Visa Everywhere Initiative attracted egyptian start-ups and Innovators.

Can you tell us about the Visa Everywhere Initiative, which you recently launched in the region, and how Egypt benefitted from this initiative?

The Everywhere Initiative was structured around three real-life business challenges: enabling electronic payment acceptance among smaller merchants and providing secure eCommerce solutions; transforming the transit experience at airports; and building customer loyalty through the right offers at the right time. It is part of our innovation strategy, and it helps startups with innovative ideas to come forward and bring their ideas to life.

Four companies from Egypt’s dynamic technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, and Visa has selected Swvl, a tech startup based in Egypt, as the winner of its “Airport Transit Challenge”.

Among 13 chosen from 190 total entries, Rakna, Swvl, VRTeek, and Widebot competed against innovators from the UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, and Pakistan for a chance to secure funding of up to $50,000 to develop their ideas.

Visa’s Everywhere Initiative is a global programme designed to support the company’s goal of fostering the growth of next-generation payment technologies. This is the first time Visa has rolled out the initiative in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. To date, nearly 1,500 fintech startups from across North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia have participated.

How important is security to Visa, and how does it help in promoting ecommerce?

Security is at the centre of Visa’s business, and our risk management technologies have kept global fraud rates at a historic low. We recently rolled out Visa Token Service (VTS), which eliminates the need for data in merchant systems altogether, by replacing personal account information, such as the 16-digit account number, with a unique digital identifier called a token. This can be used online, in stores or in app transactions, and it protects the cardholders’ personal data and ensures that a third party cannot retrieve their information.

Financial crime is increasingly moving from the bank vault and merchant point of sale to the devices we hold in our hands. As the world moves toward remote payments, there is a greater need to protect the people and businesses that rely on our network every day.

We apply technology, partnerships, and extensive expertise of our people to keep our systems secure.

Recently, and in partnership with the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC), we launched the first-ever Egypt Card Security Week. The theme of the week is staying safe when shopping online, which underscores the work of both organisations to protect consumers against different types of payment-related frauds, while also supports the growth of Egypt’s e-commerce sector.

To help promote a safe and secure payment ecosystem, Visa surveyed consumers across Egypt to understand their experiences, attitudes, and behaviours regarding e-commerce and card payments.

The Visa-commissioned survey found that over half of people in Egypt (53 percent) are frequent online shoppers, with one in ten using e-commerce sites almost every day. However, with 47 percent of people shopping online every 2-3 weeks or less, there is a huge opportunity for further expansion of the sector over the coming years.

Younger people are the most frequent shoppers, with 63 percent of 18-25 year-olds shopping online at least once a week. They are also the biggest spenders, with approximately a third (31 percent) claiming to spend EGP 5,000 or more each month. The average monthly spend reported across all age groups was EGP 3,758.

Consumer goods are driving the popularity of online shopping with electronics (64 percent), clothing (44 percent), personal grooming products (34 percent) and books (33 percent), making up four of the top ten goods and services most commonly purchased online. Travel and entertainment is the other main driver, with flights and hotels purchased online by more than 40 percent of people.

The survey identified reluctance among some consumers to pay electronically for certain goods and services they buy online. For all product categories surveyed, there is a 3-13 percent difference between consumers buying and paying for goods and services online, with the trend particularly pronounced with electronics, personal grooming, clothes/apparels, and restaurant orders. This discrepancy creates unnecessary friction in the system, such as the inconvenience to consumers of having to take out money, and the cost to merchants of handling cash and checks.

The study suggests that one of the keys to expanding the e-commerce sector and increasing the use of digital payments is for merchants to offer better websites, stronger data protection, and a smoother refund or replacement policy. More discounts and rewards would also influence 67 percent of respondents to pay electronically when shopping online.

As technology evolves, how prepared is Visa to continue the path of leadership in electronic/digital payments?

Rapid innovation is happening in dorm rooms, garages, coffee shops, and large, multinational enterprises. To encourage the proliferation of technologies that improve and expand our reach, we are making Visa, which was built on the notion of universal access, even more open.

We have transformed our proprietary technology network, VisaNet, into the world’s largest open commerce platform. The Visa Developer Platform provides application developers with access to VisaNet, as well as our products, services, and technology via Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs)—a virtual sandbox that allows anyone to transform great ideas into new commerce experiences.

We are fundamentally changing the VisaNet architecture to enable global and domestic processing quickly and securely. We are working with clients and governments in Cambodia, Egypt, and Indonesia to support their domestic processing needs.

Visa is applying AI and machine learning to reduce fraud and to address cyberattacks by harnessing the vast amounts of data flowing through VisaNet.

Visa Advanced Authorization, Visa Risk Manager, Visa Consumer Authentication Services, CyberSource Decision Manager, and Visa Checkout Merchant Risk Advice Score all use machine learning models. In 2015, Visa launched Visa Research to apply AI, machine learning, and deep learning in areas such as data analytics, security, and future of commerce.

Can you tell us about mVisa and about how it would help in expanding the acceptance footprint in Egypt?

mVisa is an innovative seamless and secure mobile solution for instant cashless payments that we just launched in Egypt. mVisa, brings the benefits of easy and secure digital commerce to financial institutions, merchants, and consumers, is expected to help accelerate Egypt’s move towards a cash-light economy.

To use the solution, merchants need to register for a unique Merchant ID issued by their bank. They can display this to consumers in the form of a QR or numeric code, enabling them to accept digital payments instantly and conveniently by alleviating the need for fixed point-of-sale technology and Internet connectivity. mVisa also enables merchants to access their sales and transaction history  easily on their own mobile app, while payments go directly and quickly to their bank accounts.

MVisa alleviates the need for POS infrastructure as consumers can send and merchants can receive payments using the mobile phones they already have. mVisa is designed to digitise everyday spending, converting everyday purchases like groceries, fuel and bill payment to digital payments, and reducing the cash cardholders withdraw from ATMs. This will also reduce the amount of cash merchants handle daily.

The launch of mVisa aligns with Visa’s mission to accelerate the acceptance of electronic payments in cash-dominant economies, supporting greater financial inclusion and transparency of financial transactions. The scalability and interoperability of mVisa allows these targets to be achieved in shorter timelines.

The advent of digital technologies created entirely new categories of commerce, such as eCommerce and mobile commerce, and has also created new ways to make purchases in the physical world, such as tapping an NFC-enabled phone or wearable, scanning a QR code or simply clicking a button.

As those and other new technologies are adopted by consumers, Visa will continue to innovate in payments so everyone has access to simple, convenient and safe ways to pay. Whether in a store, online or using a mobile phone, Visa will continue to be the engine of commerce—making it as easy to pay on any device as it is to swipe a card.

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