FinDev Guide

FinDev COVID-19 Update | 11 - 24 Mar 2021

Roundup of the most relevant coronavirus-related resources for the microfinance and financial inclusion community
A woman walking under a hot sun. Photo by Allison Shelley for CGAP.

FinDev Gateway has created this COVID-19 Update with the latest and most relevant knowledge resources for financial inclusion. Sign up to receive this update to your inbox. 

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Global Update

  • The mobile money industry reached two major milestones in 2020; the value of mobile money transactions processed daily surpassed $2 billion, more than double the value the industry was processing only four years ago. Also, the number of monthly active mobile money accounts reached 300 million, growing at 17 percent year-over-year. The industry also reports the highest increase in the number of registered agents in the past three years and says that despite the lockdown measures, 50 percent of mobile money agents remained active throughout the pandemic.
  • A World Bank technical note highlights new supervisory technology solutions (suptech) that can be used by market conduct authorities in low- and middle-income countries to strengthen supervisory capacity and efficiency. Suptech is becoming increasingly important as the global pandemic has accelerated digital activity and has made on-site examination more complex and at times infeasible for financial sector supervisors.



  • In response to increasing financial fraud during the pandemic, especially related to digital lending, the Indian government is exploring regulatory options to crack down on apps offering cash loans.
  • Newly launched digital banks in the Asia-Pacific region are facing challenges to their business model as the pandemic brought about increased credit costs and lower deposit rates, according to a new S&P Global Ratings report. However, the long-term prospects for these players is positive due to their ability to reach the region's large unbanked population and offer affordable financial services.
  • The COVID-19 emergency cash transfer programs in Pakistan and Cambodia were hailed as success stories in a recent report by the Brazil-based International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, which analyzed government responses from around the world to provide lessons for the future, including shock-responsive and universal social protection.
  • Collection efficiency in the Indian microfinance sector has plateaued at around 80 percent, and microlenders anticipate it will take another six to nine months to get back up to pre-COVID-19 levels. Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India has ordered lenders to report accounts restructured due to COVID-19, though lenders say they have received very few requests to restructure under the COVID-19 relief scheme.




Some articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in French.

  • Banks in Cameroon increased lending to businesses and individuals by 7 percent in 2020, in spite of the uncertainty created by the global pandemic.  
  • As the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, countries across Africa have emerged as easy targets for cyber-attacks, as seen last October with the major hack that compromised Uganda’s mobile money network. 
  • The pandemic and its lockdowns have been a catalyst for e-commerce in Africa, according to a new report from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The African e-commerce platform Jumia had one of its best financial performances in 2020, and a growing part of consumers plan to continue shopping online even when lockdown measures are lifted.
  • NIBSS (Nigeria Interbank Settlement System plc) has launched a QR Code-driven payment solution in partnership with all Nigerian financial service providers. Merchants can now accept in-person and contactless payments via a QR code. 
  • The Central Bank of Nigeria has added $120 million to the Target Credit Facility to support MSMEs and households affected by the pandemic. The stimulus will be distributed through NIRSAL microfinance bank.

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.

  • In 2020, Latin America and the Caribbean had the fastest growth of any region for registered mobile bank accounts (38 percent) and active mobile money accounts (67 percent), according to a new GSMA study. The growth has been driven in part by government pandemic relief funds sent via mobile money.
  • MSMEs in Colombia are slowly recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new survey by CFI, but they remain vulnerable; 61 percent of MSMEs would not be able to cover essential costs beyond one month if their household income dried up. Businesses that opened during the pandemic report spending more of their savings to keep operations running than existing businesses which never closed.
  • Banks and fintechs in Argentina are joining forces to expand payments interoperability in response to Central Bank requirements. The 1.3 million businesses which have been accepting QR payments from the country's main fintech, Mercado Libre, will also accept payments from its competitor, the digital bank platform MODO, starting in June 2021.
  • A new case study documents actions taken by regulatory authorities in Peru to increase cybersecurity in the last 10 years, including public guidance on how to react and stay alert to cybersecurity threats during the pandemic.
  • Two big banks in the region announced their intentions to pursue digital transformation. The Chilean Banco Estado plans to digitize financial products and promote its payment platform Compraquí (“Buy Here”) allowing small businesses to receive payments through credit and debit cards. Mexican bank Banorte will create a new digital bank that will compete with fintechs.

For more on LAC, check out the latest Portal FinDev Biweekly Update in Spanish.


Arab World

Some articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in French and Arabic.

  • Egypt’s National Council for Women launched a COVID-19 response program on International Women's Day to boost women's financial inclusion in rural areas by investing in the scale up and digitalization of Village Savings and Loans Associations which reach over 120,000 Egyptian women.
  • Despite a projected seven percent drop in remittances globally due to lingering effects of the pandemic, remittances from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are expected to improve in 2021 after a drop of approximately 10 to 15 percent in 2020.
  • Three out of four small business entrepreneurs in the UAE feel optimistic about business recovery this year, according to Visa's 2021 Small Business Recovery study. 38 percent of surveyed retailers said they have established an online presence in response to COVID-19, and 20 percent said they were planning to build an e-commerce platform.
  • Over the past year, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund supported Saudi Arabia’s MSME sector with $4.5 billion in loans as part of a national effort to help firms weather the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Syria is currently experiencing one of its worst socio-economic downturns since the start of the crisis ten years ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already dire situation. In the past year alone, the Syrian pound has lost three quarters of its value while the cost of food and other essential items has rocketed by more than 200 percent. Almost 90 percent of the Syrian population today lives in poverty.

For more on the Arab world and resources in Arabic, check out the latest FinDev Update in Arabic.

COVID-19 Resources

“Covid-19” image by Prachatai. Used with permission.

COVID-19 Resource Hub

A collective space for the financial inclusion community to share experiences and lessons learned from the pandemic

FinDev Guide to Data - Tracking the Global Response to COVID-19

FinDev Coronavirus Data Tracker

Data relevant for financial inclusion - find out who is tracking what

Photo by Thao Vu Xuan, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

COVID-19 Insights for Inclusive Finance

Collection of recent CGAP blogs and publications


Blogs & Opinion

If you have a blog idea and would like to write for the FinDev Blog, please review our guidelines. We do not cross-post blogs that have been published elsewhere, but if you wish to share an existing blog post in our next FinDev COVID-19 Update, you can send it to us using our contact form

The Pandemic at One Year

One Year On: What a Year of Surveys Tell Us About COVID-19 and Microfinance

Cautious Optimism: MSMEs Are Rebounding From the Impacts of COVID-19

A Year of COVID-19 – What Role Did Inclusive Finance Play?

Achieving an Equitable COVID-19 Recovery Through Safe Housing: Why it’s Time for Financial Institutions to Step Up


Women's Entrepreneurship and Child Labor: Addressing an Uncomfortable Relationship

Catalyzing Women's Bank Account Use Through COVID-19 Relief

Socioeconomic Impact

How COVID19 Changed the Path of Remittances in The Gambia

Resilience and Account Ownership


Recent Publications

Do you have a publication to add to this list? Share your work on FinDev Gateway. 

What's Next for Social Protection in Light of COVID-19: Country Responses

2021 State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money

From Cash to Digital Wage Payments in the Philippines

The Next Wave of Suptech Innovation

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH) Beneficiaries and Program Implementation


View All Publications Related to COVID-19 >



CBN Adds $120M to COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund for Loans to MSMEs, Households in Nigeria

WB Approves $200M to Help Poor Urban Youths, Migrant Returnees


View All News Related to COVID-19 >


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