FinDev Guide

FinDev COVID-19 Update | 08 - 21 Apr 2021

Roundup of the most relevant coronavirus-related resources for the microfinance and financial inclusion community
A farmer walking home in the dusk. Photo by Huy Nguyen Quoc, 2015 CGAP Photo Contest.

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Global Update

  • Recent interviews with microfinance leaders highlight the importance of savings during the pandemic. Muktinath Bikas Bank of Nepal, winner of the 2020 European Microfinance Award, shared, “The experience of the pandemic has reinforced the importance of savings among our members, as they became a lifeline for many during lockdown.” Finca Impact Finance reported that they actually saw an increase in deposits in 2020, as people were “eager for a safe and trusted place to keep their money” during a time of economic uncertainty.
  • Last year, as businesses anticipated losses during the pandemic, those who had already set up lines of credit with banks started to draw down on them more heavily. In order to meet this surge in credit demand, banks tightened lending standards, restricting new lending and issuing smaller loans. New research published independently by Kapan (IMF) and Minoiu (Federal Reserve System) shows that small firms faced a stronger tightening of lending terms.
  • A new policy note from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) discusses the need for countries to establish a Financial Inclusion Pandemic Crisis Management Taskforce to mitigate the impact of pandemic crises on National Financial Inclusion Strategies and ensure that progress is not lost.



  • In Pakistan, insurtech company TPL Life and Islamic bank BankIslami have partnered to offer Shariah-compliant COVID-19 health insurance coverage.
  • Remittances from Russia to Central Asian nations are helping mitigate the pandemic’s effect on the region’s economy, which is also suffering from a drop in gas revenues from China and a slow vaccine rollout. 
  • Government relief packages have helped SMEs in Malaysia keep their businesses alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid is set to end in August, so SMEs are encouraged to apply soon.
  • In Cambodia, a new viral outbreak and the country’s first official COVID-19 deaths prompted 100 NGOs to demand that MFIs and banks suspend debt and interest collection for three months. In response, the Cambodia Microfinance Association and the Association of Banks in Cambodia announced relief measures, including a payment reprieve for clients who test positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine. At the urging of the country’s Prime Minister after a rapid growth in COVID-19 cases sent provinces into lockdown, additional measures were released.



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

  • The second round of the RECOVR surveys in Zambia and Rwanda highlights the deep effects of the pandemic on households’ finances: 23 percent of respondents in Zambia skipped required loan payments and 59 percent in Rwanda reported loss of income which prevented them from buying food. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic could increase the financing gap for SMEs in Africa, previously estimated at $421 billion, according to a new African Development Bank report which recommends that governments consider mid- to long-term structural policies to build SMEs’ resilience.  
  • Fintechs in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal have shown resilience during the pandemic by developing new products and adapting their processes. However, the crisis has increased gender inequalities in the West African fintech sector. 
  • Despite the pandemic, the volume of loans granted by MFIs in West Africa grew by 12 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the latest report from the Central Bank of West African States. Mali and Côte d’Ivoire recorded the largest increases. 
  • Savings groups in Ugandan refugee camps have proven to be particularly resilient during the pandemic, as VisionFund Uganda reports they had a repayment rate of 94 percent by the end of 2020, compared to 65 percent for their other savings groups.

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.

  • Latin American fintechs managed to attract $1.3 billion in more than 90 deals in the first quarter of 2021, despite the region’s ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil, Mexico and Colombia accounted for 95 percent of the funds, with Brazilian Nubank raising over $400 million.
  • In Colombia, the number of digital wallet users increased by 35 percent in 2020, reaching more than 25 million users who needed secure banking transactions during the pandemic. Daviplata, Nequi and Bancolombia had the highest number of wallet users.
  • Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on the Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan borders will get access to $1.5 million in non-reimbursable funds granted by the European Union and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. The initiative aims to support businesses which depend on migration and trade between countries, flows which have been impacted by the pandemic.
  • Cooperatives in Mexico have played a fundamental role in helping their members stay afloat during the pandemic given their close relationship with clients, says a new study by BFA Global. The paper also includes a guide to help cooperatives embrace digital transformation, arguing that they need to digitize in order to continue supporting their members.
  • The Peruvian government announced new measures to support the strengthening of MFIs' assets, including the temporary purchase of subordinated debt, to ensure that they continue to support the MSME sector and its role in the country’s economic recovery.

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.

  • Amazon Payment Services promised to waive all fees for new MSMEs in Egypt to help facilitate their transition to online payments during the ongoing pandemic. This incentive will last throughout the month of Ramadan until the end of June 2021. 
  • Microfinance loans to women in Egypt grew during the pandemic, from $510 million in 2019 to $574 million in 2020, with women now accounting for 62 percent of the total number of borrowers. 
  • Egypt has extended the grace period for repayments on microloans from its Local Development Fund Program through December 2021, allowing borrowers to pay back the original amount in one lump sum without any interest or additional late fees.
  • Mastercard and Iraq's Central Bank announced a partnership to digitize payments in the cash-driven country, aiming to boost financial inclusion and mitigate the risks of a shadow economy during the pandemic. Mastercard also teamed up with the Saudi Payments Network and IBM to increase non-cash transactions in the kingdom by 70 percent by 2030.

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

Discussing Moratoria and Other Pandemic-Era Measures, a Q&A With FINCA Impact Finance

What the Pandemic Taught Us About Savings

The Corporate “Dash For Cash” and Banks’ Pullback From Risk-taking

Digital Finance

How Can Financial Institutions Use Digital Transformation to Help MSMEs Recover From the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Why With Such Robust Evidence Isn’t Digital Finance More Ubiquitous Across Poor Countries?

Yes, COVID Is the Big Bang of Digital Payments

Socioeconomic Impact

March 2021 Update: One Year of COVID-19 


Recent Publications

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

The State of Economic Inclusion Report 2021: The Potential to Scale

African SMEs Through COVID-19: Challenges, Policy Responses and Recommendations

Impact of COVID-19 on CICO Agents in Indonesia

Mitigating the Impact of Pandemic Crises on National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) Policy Note


View All Publications Related to COVID-19 >



UAE Central Bank Extends Economic-Support Program Until Mid-2022

BankIslami and TPL Life Come Together to Bring Comprehensive COVID Coverage for Their Customers


View All News Related to COVID-19 >


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