Visa Inc, the worlds’ biggest bank-card network, last Monday unveiled a partnership with the Government of Rwanda to expand its business and service offerings in the country.
The company will modernize the nation’s payments network under an accord with the government, working with partners to upgrade automated teller machines, install merchant card readers, develop e-commerce capabilities and provide financial education, said Elizabeth Buse, Visa’s group president responsible for most business outside the Americas.
But more interesting than Visa’s operational plan for Rwanda is the motivation underlying their decision to expand in Rwanda; Buse continued:
“Our intent is to take what we are doing in Rwanda and repeat it across other developing economies. [Visa] chose Rwanda, because of its friendliness toward private enterprise, stable regulatory structure and smaller population.”
Visa is just the next in a long list of companies who are viewing Rwanda’s positive business and investment climate, stability and small size as an opportunity to test and launch models that can be replicated elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.
What Visa didn’t explicitly mention but undoubtedly also held sway in their decision was Rwanda’s high population density, enabling companies to reach a large number of customers over a relatively small geography, as well as its single language, Kinyarwanda, spoken by the entire population. The latter benefit has enormous implications for advertising and business management, especially when compared with other countries in Africa (companies operating in Rwanda’s neighbor Uganda, for example, have to deal with 43 different languages spoken across the country).
Karisimbi Business Partners has become an asset for multinationals hoping to take advantage of the opportunities that Rwanda offers. In early 2011 KBP implemented a pilot sales and marketing campaign for solar panels manufacturer ToughStuff which resulted in the company investing in a Rwandan operation and acting as a launchpad for sales in neighboring Burundi and DR Congo (read the ToughStuff case study here). Currently, Karisimbi Partners is in the midst of a full market and feasibility study for a multinational and publicly-traded agri-processor that could lead to a multi-million dollar investment by the company.
As the continent continues to develop the business environment will only become more attractive to multinationals who see Africa as “the next frontier,” and Rwanda will continue to serve as a testing ground and launchpad for those business models.
Read the Visa article here.