Visa and Halyk Bank Launch Business Leadership Marathon to Support Women Entrepreneurs in Central Asia


Visa and Halyk Bank Launch Business Leadership Marathon to Support Women Entrepreneurs in Central Asia

·       The education marathon starts as part of the second wave of the She’s Next global initiative Empowered by Visa.

·       Three marathon winners will receive grants to develop their businesses. 

The Business Leadership Marathon starts in Kazakhstan and Central Asia to support women entrepreneurs in the region. The marathon is implemented by Tech Hub of the Astana International Financial Centre, Visa – the world leader in digital payments, and the Online bank by Halyk Bank – a mobile business application for the largest bank in Kazakhstan. The purpose of the marathon is to support women planning to start their businesses or already developing an existing business. Additionally, in Kazakhstan, the program was supported by the Fund for Sustainable Development and Support of Women's Entrepreneurship (Council of Business Women "Atameken"), the Center for the Development of Women's Entrepreneurship at the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of the Republic of Kazakhstan "Atameken", the UN Women in Kazakhstan, the Center for Entrepreneurship "Qolday", Non-profit organization "TechnoWomen", Entrepreneurship Development Fund "Damu". 

The share of women in the structure of owners of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in Kazakhstan is 43%and continues to grow year by year. However, when starting a business, entrepreneurs often face various challenges. According to a study done by Visa on Kazakhstan in 2021, 42% of those surveyed said that it was difficult to balance their business and household duties, and 61% had difficulty raising capital to start their businesses. 

Among the many initiatives that Visa and Halyk Bank are launching as part of the She's Next global initiative Empowered by Visa, Visa and Halyk Bank are launching an educational marathon to help entrepreneurs overcome existing barriers and challenges. In the first phase of the initiative, which took place in 2021, more than 2,500 entrepreneurs from five countries in the region were involved. 

The slogan of the marathon is "Successful business is a balance!". Modern women today have time to pay attention not only to the tasks of developing their businesses, but also to taking care of their families, children, and parents. Therefore, it is the consequence when building a business not to forget about the balance of business and personal life. The participants of the marathon will be able to visit 8 educational lectures on effective business management and the formation of a harmonious everyday life: the introduction of sports into the schedule, proper nutrition, and more. The lecturers of the marathon will be recognized leaders from the business industry and other spheres. This year, participants will also have the opportunity to win grants to develop their businesses.

 «We are excited to partner with Visa and Halyk Bank as support for women entrepreneurs highlights their integral role in business development. We hope the program will help women reach their potential and provide the resources and inspiration to start their businesses or continue growing their businesses.», - noted Kairat Kaliev, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tech Hub of the Astana International Financial Center. 

«Visa supports and launches numerous initiatives to help micro, small and medium enterprises, including those run by women, grow and move online. We are implementing the Business Leadership Marathon with our partner Halyk Bank, and we expect that we will be able to unite even more women in the region who are focused on developing in business. Our goal is to provide access to new knowledge for the business and personal development of entrepreneurs in the region, and business development grants will help marathon winners take the next important step in developing their business» — said Kristina Dorosh, Vice President, Regional Manager of Visa in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. 

«Halyk Bank has been supporting women entrepreneurs for many years, including through preferential financing programs. Today we see that in several industries, such as food processing, retail, education, and medicine, the number of female entrepreneurs is comparable to or even exceeds the number of male entrepreneurs, and this trend is gaining momentum. Today, the share of the loan portfolio of women-individual entrepreneurs in our bank is 55%. We are confident that the joint project with our strategic partner Visa - it is a good incentive for further growth of entrepreneurial activity among women and are pleased to support such a large-scale initiative that will cover all markets of Central Asia», - commented on the launch of the marathon Umut Shayakhmetova, Chairman of the Board of Halyk Bank.


How to get to the marathon?


On September 15, 2022, the International call for applications for participation in the marathon. To participate, you must register on the program website, after which you will receive confirmation and undergo training, necessarily including testing using a chatbot with a rating system. Participation in the marathon is open to adult women interested in or engaged in business from all over Central Asia based on an example.

 What will the participants get?

In addition to insights from business and other experts, participants can compete for business development grants. To qualify for the marathon final and become a candidate for a grant, participants need to answer all the tasks in the chatbot. The list of tasks also includes the preparation of a mini-essay about your own business. Someone will award automatically points for tests in the chatbot for correct answers, while the jury of the marathon will judge the essay. The 15 finalists with the highest scores will be shortlisted for the marathon.

Further, among the finalists, three winners will be selected by open voting, who will receive 5,000.000, 3.000.000, and 1.000.000 tenge for the development of their business in the first, second, and third places, respectively.

Also, as part of the launch of the Business Leadership marathon, Halyk Bank announced the continuation of its program to support women’s entrepreneurship and announced the allocation of a 1-billion tenge from its funds for the concessional financing of entrepreneurs. This amount will already be the 6-billion tenge allocated by the bank as part of its program, where entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to receive up to 20,000,000 tenge per borrower at 5%. It should be noted that when issuing a preferential loan from the bank, priority will be given to the participants of the educational marathon.

Within the framework of concessional financing from Halyk Bank, three marathon winners are allowed to increase the volume of loans for business development up to 50,000,000, 40,000,000, and 30,000,000 tenge, for the first, second, and third places, respectively*.

All other participants of the marathon will be given the opportunity of a preferential bank loan of up to 20,000,000 tenge*.

Additionally, within the framework of the partnership, all participants of the educational marathon will open accounts with Halyk Bank free of charge.

 *Participants from not only Kazakhstan but also from Central Asia, including the subsidiary banks of Halyk Bank in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, can get a loan.

*Participation in the marathon does not oblige the participants to take a loan from a bank, the participants realize this opportunity at their discretion.

*Approval of the application and confirmation of preferential financing from the Bank is considered on an individual basis. In case of non-compliance of the borrower's application with the Bank's internal requirements for granting a loan, the Bank reserves the right not to approve the concessional financing.

 Reference Information:

The Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) is an independent jurisdiction that started operations in 2018. In accordance with the Development Strategy until 2025, the key focus of the AIFC is to consolidate as a universal platform connecting the countries of the EAEU, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

The AIFC Tech Hub is a subdivision of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), whose task is to promote the development of the startup ecosystem, venture industry market, e-commerce, corporate innovation, and new technological areas in Kazakhstan (FinTech, GovTech, SatelliteTech, Industry 4.0., etc.). Together with international partners, The AIFC Tech Hub conducts programs to support market players, as well as facilitates the structuring of venture deals and testing of new fintech solutions within the regulatory sandbox of the AIFC jurisdiction.

Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) is a global leader in digital payments. Mission Visa Inc. ‒ to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network, which allows consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole to develop systematically. The latest global technological network VisaNet provides reliable and secure payments around the world and can process more than 65,000 transactions per second. Visa's focus on innovation is the catalyst for the rapid growth of connected commerce, where virtually any connected device can make payments, and thus advances the transition to a cashless future for everyone, everywhere. As the transition from analog to digital takes place, Visa is using its brand, products, experts, network and scale to transform commerce. For more information visit , .

Halyk Bank is the largest bank in Kazakhstan. With assets of 13,735.6 billion tenge as of June 30, 2022, the bank is the leading credit institution in the country. The bank has the largest customer base and branch network - 577 branches across the country, also operates in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

Halyk Bank actively supports women's entrepreneurship: for the fifth year now, the bank has been implementing its program, thanks to which about 500 entrepreneurs received preferential loans totaling 5 billion tenge.