FinDev COVID-19 Update | 25 Feb - 10 Mar 2021
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- An estimated 4 million community health workers, mostly women, could accelerate financial inclusion by highlighting the benefits of mobile money to billions of households they reach globally, according to Bangladesh’s BRAC Bank. Recently, BRAC has relied on its field staff and bKash agents to help digitize payments for all of its 50,000 community health workers, 32,000 of whom set up mobile accounts for the first time.
- A global survey conducted by a group of financial service providers (FSPs) affiliated with the Social Performance Taskforce reveals the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of over ten thousand borrowers globally. About half of the FSP customers either had to cut back on certain food items or reduce the number of daily meals. Immediate access to cash savings was especially important given that other assets did not have much use in the lockdown. The survey also highlighted a growing demand for convenient access to services as a result of the pandemic.
- A CFI brief offers insights into how regulatory flexibility could be customized for FSPs serving low-income and micro and small enterprise borrower segments. According to the brief, moratoria, a key relief measure used during the pandemic, should not be imposed on FSPs and their clients because of the additional costs it inflicts on borrowers. A CGAP blog imagines a future scenario where regulators include special provisions in their moratoria measures to protect customers and provide FSPs with a small amount of liquidity.
- As economies recover from the pandemic, Islamic financing is poised to expand faster than conventional loans across South and Southeast Asia, according to a new Moody’s report. Despite the economic slowdown, growth of Islamic banking in Malaysia and Indonesia significantly outpaced that of conventional banks in 2020, as the sector proved resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In Cambodia, a country hit hard by the drop in tourism due to the pandemic, there is concern about a looming credit risk for the banking and microfinance sector as the moratorium on debt repayment may come to an end in mid-2021. MFIs restructured over $1 billion in loans last year, and the Cambodian Microfinance Association anticipates an increase in loan restructure requests in coming months.
- The Thai insurtech sector is growing, as companies launch new products inspired by the pandemic and secure investor funding. Foreign startups are also expanding to the Thai insurance market and regulators are encouraging innovation through their regulatory sandbox program.
- In the Philippines, an estimated 13.5 million farmers and fisherfolk affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive financial cards that contain an e-wallet and QR code and can be used to claim support provided by the agriculture department.
- Women in India increased their share of housing loans in 2020 during the pandemic, but turned away from consumer loans and credit cards.
Some articles and knowledge resources referenced in this section are in French.
- The African Development Bank has provided a $2 million grant to establish the African Cybersecurity Resource Center (ACRC) for Financial Inclusion. By fighting cybercrime across the continent, ACRC is expected to boost resilience and trust in financial technology amid an increase in digital adoption linked to the pandemic.
- Nigeria is experiencing a banking agent boom after a surge in the use of digital financial services during the pandemic. The number of banking agents for the mobile money operator Moniepoint increased from 8,000 in 2019 to more than 50,000 in February 2021.
- Somalia has issued its first license for a mobile money service to the country’s largest provider, Hormuud Telecom. This step will help to regulate mobile money for the first time and to formalize digital transactions as the main payment method within the country, where they have risen since the pandemic started.
- 71 percent of MSMEs in Senegal reported a revenue decrease linked to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Corner shops in Nigeria faced significant drops in income in 2020 and are slowly starting to recover, according to the Corner Shop Diaries from MSC and Low-income Financial Transformation (L-IFT).
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.
- Instead of investing in a house, opening a business or paying for education, Latin Americans are spending their savings and taking out loans to pay for COVID-19 related health expenses. This shift could have a long-lasting effect on families’ well-being, as ECLAC reports that extreme poverty in the region is at its worst level in two decades with one out of eight people who cannot meet their most basic needs.
- Formalizing a small business is now easier than ever in Ecuador after the government implemented business registration reforms that allow anyone to start a small business without leaving their home. About 5,200 new companies have been created since the reform and 29 percent of them are women-owned. Other countries in the region, such as Colombia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, have implemented similar measures to help entrepreneurs enter the formal economy and resume commercial activities.
- Ten years ago, Financiera FAMA, one of Nicaragua’s largest MFIs, faced a crisis resulting from the “No Pago” (Don’t Pay) movement and interest rate caps. A new CFI brief highlights lessons learned from that crisis, including key actions the MFI took to improve customer service, credit analysis and client retention, as well as a number of operational changes and technology investment.
- OXXO, the main banking correspondent in Mexico with almost 21,000 stores across the country, entered the fintech ecosystem, joining the digital payment trend with its digital wallet Spin that will allow customers to send and receive money without the need of a bank card.
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 and Arabic.
- Remittances to Yemen, which had become a key source of income for many households during the ongoing civil war, decreased significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic, damaging the economy even further. A new IFPRI model shows that this decline in remittances hit poor households the hardest, and also had significant indirect effects on production, food systems, and employment.
- The Saudi Central Bank announced that it would continue to postpone loan payments which are part of its guaranteed-financing program for another three months, encouraging the financial sector to support SMEs and maintain employment in the private sector.
- Egypt is on track to pay all government employee salaries using a new national e-payment system called "Meeza" by the end of the year. So far, about 23 million Meeza cards have been issued.
- MoneyGram International recently extended its relationship with Ooredoo Qatar, a well-known Qatari telecommunications operator, as the company seeks to strengthen its digital footprint across the Middle East to take advantage of increased demand for contactless payments resulting from the pandemic.
- Arab Tunisian Lease, a Tunisian leasing company for MSMEs, secured a $12 million loan from Sanad Fund for MSME to support micro, small and medium businesses as they adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic amid widespread business closures, liquidity loss and difficulties accessing finance.
For more on the Arab world and resources in Arabic, check out the latest FinDev Update in Arabic.
Blogs & Opinion
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Women’s Financial Inclusion
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