Sep. 25, 2020

Kemi Okusanya


Kemi Okusanya

General Manager, West Africa, Visa

With an experienced player in the market, most rising solutions require no reinvention of the wheel.


Kemi Okusanya's career has always focused on bringing the benefits of financial services to more people and places in Africa. Since joining Visa in 2017, she launched Visa on mobile in Ghana and expanded it in Nigeria to thousands of new merchants across the country. She expanded access to new strategic fintech partnerships including Flutterwave, Konga, and Paystack and has been instrumental in the growth and adoption of Visa Direct. She joined Visa from MoneyGram International, where she was head of Anglophone Africa, responsible for a 23-country region, comprising 18,000 locations and 5,000 automated payment points. Prior to this, she had a 10-year stint with Zenith Bank.

Would you give us some background of Visa's operations in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a growing economy, and in a few years the Nigerian youth will be driving it, which is why it is important for Visa to be in the country. Our competition is cash, and in Nigeria the use of cash remains high. This presents a massive opportunity for us. People outside the financial system are cut off from getting credit and enjoying other benefits of the banking system. At Visa, we try to be that gateway. We have been operating in the country for over two decades. In that time, we have been able to connect businesses, merchants, individuals, banks, fintechs, and governments to the financial ecosystem.

40% of Nigeria's adult population is still unbanked. What can Visa do with its stakeholders to help increase financial inclusion?
The cashless drive in Nigeria started about 10 years ago. Although progress has been made, there is more to be covered. Furthermore, Lagos is not Nigeria. There are still massive cash flows in the eastern, northern, and western regions. At Visa, we think about the problem and the solution. We have focused on bringing innovative solutions to address some of these needs. We want to ensure that our solutions continue to generate trust and security for the consumer. We also need to ensure the process is seamless and easy to access and use.

To what extent are the dominance of cash and the unbanked population limiting Visa's opportunities in Nigeria?
We do not see it as a limitation but an opportunity. Visa assists banks in bringing in new solutions, helping them to achieve higher financial inclusion. Similarly, we engage with the government to collaborate to move cash payments onto electronic payment platforms. Therefore, a cash-based economy is not a problem but a massive opportunity for us because the potential for growth in such markets is much higher.

What can Visa do to help improve cybersecurity for electronic transactions?
Visa has systems in place to protect card holders. For claims, Visa works with the different parties involved and investigates to resolve the matter. We operate with a four-party model, where we have the issuer, the acquirer, the merchant, and the consumer. Therefore, at every point in time we are able to ensure confidence in that ecosystem. There will always be cybersecurity problems, but we invest heavily in security tools and continuously train our staff and partners to have the right tools, knowledge, and capabilities to authorize the right transactions. Making your payments via Visa is more secure because the process involves other parties, solutions, and security intelligence behind the scenes.

In 2018, Lagos surpassed Nairobi as the venture capital leader in Africa, mostly in fintech. How is Visa looking to harness this growth?
In 2018, we made an investment in Paystack, a payment aggregator. We have quite a number of strategic partnerships with other fintechs in Nigeria and West Africa. This has helped to increase our presence in the ecosystem. We have smaller fintech partners that have been able to create niche solutions for unique challenges. It makes it easier to work with different partners in these niche spaces. Fintech is able to study a particular segment and target audience and create the right solutions for them. What Visa brings onboard are the skills from working in over 200 countries and territories. Moreover, we have built a wide range of networks that fintechs can plug into. Visa has been operating for over 60 years so we understand how payments should be done as well as the challenges involved. We know the challenges of downtime, how to create back-end solutions, and how to build a real network. As a result, fintech partners gain by being able to leverage our experience and solutions. We help ensure they do not have to reinvent the wheel; all they have to do is provide a solution for a specific space and need. 6