COVID-19 and the Future of Microfinance: Evidence and Insights from Pakistan
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens lives and livelihoods, and, with that, has created immediate challenges for institutions that serve affected communities. This publication focuses on implications for local microfinance institutions in Pakistan, a country with a mature microfinance sector, serving a large number of households. The institutions serve populations poorly-served by traditional commercial banks, helping customers invest in microenterprises, save, and maintain liquidity.
The study reports results from "rapid response" phone surveys of about 1,000 microenterprise owners, a survey of about 200 microfinance loan officers, and interviews with regulators and senior representatives of microfinance institutions. These surveys were conducted starting about a week after the country went into lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The research builds from the results to argue that COVID-19 represents a crisis for microfinance in low-income communities and suggests insights for policy reform.