Visa and Branch International, have announced a partnership that will see virtual Visa prepaid debit cards offered to over 2 million consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership will also see Branch implement Visa payment services option into its platform, to give consumers the ability to make payments using a card or a mobile phone.

This announcement comes after Branch International closed a $170 million (Kshs 17.11 billion) Series C funding in one of the largest Series C funding rounds ever raised by an Africa-focused startup. The funding was led by Visa and Foundation Capital and according to Crunchbase, it comprises $100 million in debt financing and $70 million in equity.

This partnership according to Visa represents its 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.

Commenting on the announcement, Visa’s Vice President, 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.  The company says it 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 among the most popular loan application channels in Africa and this new move is part of Visa’s strategy to leverage mobile to digitize payments and is expected to pave the way for cash-free payments.

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.

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