Kenya news update – Nairobi selected for new Visa International Africa office


Nairobi was reportedly selected as the operations base for a widened presence in Africa by Visa International according to media reports from Kenya. The South African office of Visa, which has looked after the company’s interests in sub-Saharan Africa, will in future deal solely with South Africa while some 25 countries will be served by the new Nairobi office.

The use of credit and debit cards in East Africa is most advanced in Kenya itself, while in other countries added fees and charges make the use of ‘plastic’ by tourists and business visitors difficult and expensive. While some banks in Uganda have now started to issue ‘branded’ Visa cards, both debit and credit, the market penetration is low, as is across much of the region. In Southern Sudan, also to be served from the new Visa office in Nairobi, it is well near impossible to find acceptance of credit cards and only banks like Kenya’s KCB are in a position to assist card holders, while ATM’s are not available at all there – leaving out the crucially important ‘cash points’ for foreign visitors.

Electronic payments in Kenya, at petrol stations, shops, restaurants, hotels are common these days, not only meeting the security demands to carry less cash but also encouraging spending – wait till the bills come – and the infrastructure with remote terminals connected by mobile phone technology has  expanded across the entire country. Here too the new Visa office has to meet challenges to roll out such technology in other Eastern, Central and Southern African countries and time will tell just how fast success will come.

For now though, carrying enough cash and travelers cheques is wise when visiting Eastern Africa and planning to travel beyond Kenya.

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