Visa in Armenia to Support SMEs, Female Empowerment and Digital Payments in Partnership with EBRD

23.05.2024 | 15:36 Home / News / Articles /’s interview with Diana Kiguradze, Visa CM in Caucasus on signing the MoU with the EBRD.

What are the main directions outlined in the memorandum of understanding signed by Visa and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Armenia, and what would be the key outcomes of this agreement, impacting Armenia's digital future?

Visa is honored to partner with such a notable organization such as EBRD. We anticipate that this partnership will yield substantial benefits for Armenian society, not only for our partners and customers, but also in fostering the country's economic progress. The Memorandum of Understanding focuses the strategic areas of our shared interest: SME empowerment, promotion of economic and financial inclusion, and development of infrastructure and the public sector.

Within the framework of this cooperation, we undertake to facilitate programs and dialogues and share knowledge and experience to boost financial literacy, digitally empower underserved businesses, communities, regions, and sectors, and promote digitalizing services, including GovTech and public transit.

Ultimately, we strive to accelerate the digital transformation and sustainable and inclusive economic growth of Armenia and other countries within the EBRD’s region.

Visa partnered with EBRD to empower women and promote female entrepreneurship through the She's Next Empowered by Visa initiative. How will the memorandum benefit this partnership?

At Visa, we believe in fostering inclusive economies, where all communities can equally contribute and maximize their potential. In particular, we focus on empowering women, who represent a significant yet underutilized demographic. The latest World Bank global report indicates a persistent opportunity gap between women and men across all countries, which, if bridged, could potentially enhance global GDP by over 20%.

Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs), representing approximately 90% of global businesses and over 50% of worldwide employment, are instrumental in stimulating economic development. In emerging economies like Armenia, they can contribute up to 40% of the national GDP. These statistics underscore the critical importance of supporting SMBs, especially those owned by women. In 2021, Visa introduced our global initiative, She’s Next Empowered by Visa, to Armenia. Since its inception in 2019, this campaign has been instrumental in equipping thousands of female entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills, and investment access necessary to succeed. As women's empowerment is a core focus of the Memorandum, the Visa and EBRD partnership will significantly augment our efforts in uplifting Armenian female entrepreneurs. In March, marking a starting point for our cooperation, Visa and the EBRD hosted a panel discussion titled “Women in Business of Armenia” in Yerevan, sparkling a wider conversation about women’s participation in the economy across the country.

Capitalizing on EBRD’s broad experience in investing in emerging economies combined with Visa’s expertise in payment technologies and SMBs’ needs, we aim to equip Armenian women SMB owners with the digital and financial literacy and funding necessary to establish, operate, and grow their businesses.

Digital transformation has been on Armenia's agenda for some time. How will this partnership between such prominent organizations help to scale this process?

Digital transformation is a priority for Visa in every market in which we operate, as we see digital access as fundamental to economic empowerment and financial inclusion. In tandem with the EBRD, our partnership aims to digitally empower Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs). We anticipate that digital payments will revolutionize the possibilities for SMBs to make and receive payments, reach new markets, enhance efficiency, and experience unprecedented growth. Additionally, we will concentrate our efforts on mitigating the shadow economy through digital payments. Statistical evidence suggests that digitalization not only bolsters economic transparency but also prosperity. According to a global study conducted in 2021, a broader usage of electronic transactions added $245 billion to real GDP between 2015 and 2019. Across the 70 countries and territories in the study, each 1% increase in bank card usage resulted in an annual increase of around $67 billion in the consumption of goods and services. Given that the size of Armenia's informal economy is estimated to constitute around 39% as of 2024, equivalent to approximately $27 billion at GDP PPP levels, the potential for economic growth is substantial.

Diana Kiguradze

Government Technology (GovTech) and smart city infrastructure will be other key areas of focus for our partnership. This includes promoting efficient, transparent local and national citizen services through the receipt and delivery of electronic payments and introducing digital public transit payment solutions.

I am confident that this public-private partnership will significantly accelerate Armenia’s digital transformation. The public sector lends credibility to the endeavor, while the private sector drives progress through technology, agility, and expertise.

Considering Visa's significant role in driving Armenia's cashless and digital economy, it's essential to understand Visa's approach to achieve this. Could you specify areas or strategies that Visa is currently focusing on in Armenia?

Visa has been a significant player in Armenia for over two decades, playing a pivotal role in propelling payment innovation and digital transformation. Our efforts have been particularly impactful in providing access to the economy for the underrepresented and underserved communities. Our commitment to promoting financial inclusion in Armenia remains unwavering, particularly in terms of empowering Armenian small businesses with sophisticated digital payment solutions. Notably, Visa exceeded its 2020 goal to digitally empower 50 million Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) worldwide, ultimately reaching 67 million. Furthermore, we are strategically focusing on the empowerment of women and SMBs. With the launch of the She’s Next campaign, we aim to further enhance and broaden our efforts to provide Armenian women entrepreneurs with the necessary tools and skills for business success. Visa will continue to partner with Armenian financial institutions, the government, and the Central Bank, paving the way Armenia's transition towards a cashless future.
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