Visa Launches New Initiative to Support Small Businesses in South Africa

Updated on 29 June 2020

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The following content is paid for by Visa.

• Initiative comes as new study finds consumers are increasingly embracing ecommerce and digital payments over cash and check.
• Study finds consumers moving to online retailers with 27% reporting their first purchase and 5% of merchants turning to ecommerce since the pandemic.
• Shopping habits transformed during COVID-19 with 74% of consumers only visiting shops for essentials, and 55% of businesses experiencing impact. 

Visa, the world’s leader in digital payments, has launched its new initiative that aims to champion and enable entrepreneurs in South Africa, while encouraging consumers to support small businesses. Alongside a new SME resource hub, Visa has published the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker highlighting the recent effect the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on commerce for consumers and small merchants in South Africa.

The findings of the report highlight increased anxiety amongst merchants with 55% of small businesses reporting a decrease in consumer spending during COVID-19. As consumers stay away from all but essential retail, the impact of the pandemic on merchant revenues has been high with 55% of those surveyed stating revenues have been highly impacted.

During the pandemic, many consumers in South Africa have started shopping online for the first time for essentials. 64% of consumers surveyed say that COVID-19 has led to their first online grocery purchase, while 53% have made their first online purchase from pharmacies. Overall, the report points to a shift towards online commerce, with cash transactions being replaced by digital payments.

This report shows how merchants who have moved online and adopted contactless payment systems have been able to better weather the adversity

The study also found current conditions have served as a catalyst for online commerce with 5% of merchants reporting they have introduced eCommerce as a direct result of the pandemic. As consumers and merchants focus on safety and hygiene, contactless payments have also increased during the crisis with merchants expecting a 30% growth in contactless usage post-COVID-19.

Challenges and opportunities

Commenting on the report’s findings Visa Country Manager South Africa, Aldo Laubscher, said: “The pandemic is impacting business everywhere. The findings of the COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker suggest shoppers have changed how they shop and this is already having a major impact on how merchants do business. As consumers adapt to the current restrictions, many have changed how they shop and turned to online outlets for their shopping. These changes present challenges but also enormous opportunities for all merchants, including small businesses.”

According to the report, 55% of consumers admit to now spending less while also highlighting a trend that suggests shoppers have transformed how they shop. Asked about spending habits, consumers are increasingly optimizing their trips – 60% buying in bulk, making lists to avoid impulsive purchases, and buying non-perishable items to ensure fewer trips.

“This report shows how merchants who have moved online and adopted contactless payment systems have been able to better weather the adversity, with cash-only retailers most negatively impacted. It is vital that merchants, across the globe, understand consumer behaviors and adapt accordingly – eCommerce and digital solutions will undoubtedly enable growth,” Laubscher added.

Speaking on the launch of this initiative, Aldo Laubscher added: “At Visa, we are proud to support merchants and recognize that many small businesses have been most adversely affected by the pandemic. From eCommerce to security, our “Shop Local, Support Local” initiative aims to help support them and champion the local small businesses that serve as the backbone of our communities.”

Visa will be working with key small businesses across the country and encouraging South African consumers to shop local

Launched on 17 June, Visa’s initiative will help support small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses. The platform will also feature leading merchants who embody the passion and entrepreneurship of small businesses across South Africa.

To accompany the launch Visa will be debuting a series of podcasts hosted by Visa Country Manager Aldo Laubscher where he will interview relevant industry, government and business personalities to discuss challenges facing SME’s in South Africa, as well solutions to these challenges as they focus on recovering post COVID-19.

As part of the initiative, Visa will be working with key small businesses across the country and encouraging South African consumers to shop local.

For more details on Visa’s small business initiative, or to find out how you can support a small business near you visit

About the Visa’s COVID-19 CEMEA Impact Tracker

To understand the needs of small businesses, Visa conducted a survey to assess how consumers and merchants are adapting to COVID-19. The survey was conducted across UAE, KSA, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. The methodology consisted of a combination of online, telephonic and offline interviews with consumers and merchants across key segments from groceries to fashion and travel.

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