FinDev COVID-19 Update | 31 Dec 2020 - 13 Jan 2021
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- Researchers at the University of Zurich analyzed an increase in the number of downloads of finance-related apps reported last May, and found that in some countries, the most downloaded apps during the global coronavirus pandemic showed signs of being either predatory or fraudulent.
- A boom in e-commerce during the global coronavirus pandemic is contributing to a trend of embedded finance - where financial services are offered by non-financial providers - expanding access to finance for small businesses and consumers. A World Bank report highlights good practices and implications for regulators, showing how embedded finance is expanding beyond e-commerce.
- According to a new CGAP COVID-19 Briefing, debt moratoria offered in response to the COVID-19 crisis provided necessary relief to both financial service providers (FSPs) and borrowers. However, the burden of extra financial cost was put on customers. The brief provides additional lessons about the impact of moratoria on low-income borrowers in India, Peru, and Uganda and implications for regulators and FSPs.
- In the Philippines, digital financial inclusion has taken off, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap 2020-2023, which aims to increase the share of digital payments to 50 percent of all retail transactions and expand financial inclusion to 70 percent of Filipino adults by 2023. In July 2020, DiskarTech, the first financial inclusion app in Taglish (a combination of Tagalog and English), was launched to make banking services more accessible to all Filipinos, and reached almost 4 million downloads by the end of the year. The PayMaya app and e-wallet registered triple-digit growth in cashless transactions throughout 2020, and reached over 28 million customers by the end of the year. Globe Fintech Innovations, the operator of mobile wallet GCash, raised $175 million in equity investment from a New York-based investment firm.
- Wave Money, Myanmar’s leading mobile financial services provider, experienced record growth in 2020, with double the volume of total transactions from 2019.
- Pakistan launched Raast, the country’s first instant payment system, as part of the State Bank’s “Digital Pakistan” vision to include low-income people in the formal economy.
- The Philippine Security and Exchange Commission announced accounting relief for small lenders, giving them up to five years to “build up a buffer for credit losses” incurred during the pandemic, allowing them to stagger provisioning over five years.
- Kashf Foundation of Pakistan won the UN Women’s Asia-Pacific Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Award for COVID-19 action, for its initiative, “Don’t let corona impact your business,” which helped women micro-entrepreneurs rebuild their businesses.
- Remittances in several countries of the region continue to grow despite projected declines due to COVID-19, with Bangladesh and Pakistan experiencing double digit growth in 2020, according to the annual World Bank report, Global Economic Prospects. The report states that these inflows have helped Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to increase their foreign reserves. In Pakistan, factors to explain the growth in remittances include favorable exchange rate conditions, a build-up in migrant savings due to not being able to travel, economic relief payments from host countries and increased use of formal and digital channels. In Myanmar, the Central Bank issued remittances licenses to two more local companies.
Some articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in French.
- In Kenya, a group of lenders and IT companies, including the mobile network operator Safaricom, have been licensed to offer a platform for cashless payments of public transportation fares, which will also have the technical capacity to conduct contact tracing for COVID-19. When implemented, passengers will be required to pay their fares using mobile money.
- A new World Bank report compiles lessons from COVID-19-related cash transfer programs implemented in urban areas of 11 African countries. Lean design and simplicity, proper communication with beneficiaries, smart use of big data and digital payment infrastructure are among the key factors for achieving rapid scale.
- According to a survey conducted by the rating agency Microrate, 46 percent of African MFIs believe that the pandemic will continue to have an impact on their portfolio and the financial situation of MFIs will not improve by the end of 2021.
- In Côte d’Ivoire, 78 percent of businesses reported a decrease in turnover since the onset of COVID-19. At the time of the survey (mid-August to end-September 2020), a quarter of businesses reported having received support from the government and one third received bank support, mostly as restructured loan terms.
- A report by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion synthesizes the impact of COVID-19 on refugees’ financial inclusion in Rwanda and Mauritania over the last year. Curfews, lockdowns and travel restrictions have accelerated the development of mobile money, cashless solutions and online financial literacy workshops.
- FMO, the Dutch development bank, has signed a $50 million loan portfolio guarantee with Equity Bank Kenya which will cover loans provided to agricultural MSMEs led by women and youth as they adapt to the pandemic.
For more on Africa, check out the latest Portail FinDev Biweekly Update in French.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Most articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in Spanish.
- Colombia approved a decree that will make it easier for micro, small and medium enterprises to resume commercial activity by reducing registration and annual renewal fees and other paperwork requirements. One in ten microenterprises in the country were forced to close due to the pandemic and some of them are struggling to cover essential business costs.
- In Chile, Fondo Esperanza, a BBVA Microfinance Foundation affiliate whose anchor investor is IFC, issued a social commercial paper worth $20 million to expand its microfinance portfolio to support micro-entrepreneurs (80 percent of them women), a sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time in the country that a microfinance institution has obtained financing through the capital market.
- In Mexico, the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the digital economy; more than 80 platforms are seeking authorization to operate under the Fintech Law, of which 50 are digital wallets.
- In Argentina, fintech was one of the few sectors that continued to grow during the pandemic. The number of fintechs has doubled in the last two years and digital payments overtook online credit as the main financial activity.
For more on LAC, check out the latest Portal FinDev Biweekly Update in Spanish.
Some articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in French.
- The COVID-19 crisis has increased poverty among Jordanians by around 38 percent, and among Syrian refugees by 18 percent, according to a new joint study by the World Bank and the UN Refugee Agency.
- Following the outbreak of the pandemic, Egypt’s e-government receipts increased significantly from $64 million to $255 million per month in 2020, leading to an annual growth of 250 percent and cementing the strength of the country’s electronic payment and collection system.
- Although digital transactions and online banking increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, moving the UAE to a more cashless society, 63 percent of the population remains either unbanked or under-banked, according to a senior Dubai economy official.
- Despite the pandemic, remittances from Moroccans abroad reached $7 billion at the end of November 2020, up from $6.8 billion the year before, according to Morocco’s Foreign Exchange Office data.
- Digital payment transactions in Saudi Arabia increased by 75 percent in 2020, while ATM cash withdrawals fell by 30 percent. The number of Point of Sale (PoS) devices operating in the kingdom jumped to more than 700,000 by the end of 2020, an increase of 70 percent since the beginning of the year.
- The World Bank recently announced a $246 million 3-year project in Lebanon that will provide cash transfers and access to social services to vulnerable populations affected by the economic and COVID-19 crises.
For more on the Arab world and resources in Arabic, check out the latest FinDev Update in Arabic.
Blogs & Opinion
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Reflections on the Pandemic
Fintech and Digital Finance
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Response and Recovery