Financial Inclusion in the Age of COVID-19
A basic measure of financial inclusion is the share of adults in a country who have an account at a formal financial institution or through a mobile money provider. But account ownership is only the beginning. Financial inclusion is at its best when adults use accounts to save, make payments, obtain manageable credit, and mitigate economic risks. Increasingly, digital finance has been creating opportunities to expand access by reducing costs, increasing convenience, and allowing consumers to transact remotely using mobile devices—which has been extremely important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic further mobilized financial inclusion efforts worldwide through several mechanisms, including the emergency relief payments that governments sent to bank accounts and debit cards. A recent study found that more people conduct transactions via the internet, mobile banking accounts, and ATMs (automated teller machines) during epidemics. Although the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on financial inclusion efforts remain to be seen, initial research findings suggest an acceleration in the adoption of mobile money and digital payments.
Data and descriptive statistics
The data published by the Global Findex Database (GFD) 2021
Year of analysis is 2017 and 2021 (before and after the COVID-19 outbreak)
The observation covers 25 countries. The selection is based on the availability of data for analysis, keeping in mind the representative of the sample: across regions (Asia, Africa, Europe...) and income groups (high income, lower-and-middle income, and low income).
Convert data types
Subset data for analysis
Select relevant variables
Select the 25 countries
List of countries for analysis
Select year 2017 and 2021
Exploratory data analysis
Account ownership (2017 vs 2021)
East Asia & Pacific (excluding high income)
Upper middle income countries
Lower middle income countries
Account ownership and Digital Payment
Account ownership and mobile money
Inspired by the report The impact of COVID-19 on digital financial inclusion by GPFI and author's personal experience, the regression model examines how digital financial inclusion has helped countries address the effects of COVID-19, including through digitized merchant payments, G2P (government to person) payments and utility payments.
Digital merchant payment
The percentage of respondents who report that the first time they used a debit or credit card, or a mobile phone, to make a purchase in-store or to pay online for an internet purchase happened after COVID-19 started.
Utility payment by an account
The percentage of respondents who report personally making regular payments for water, electricity, or trash collection and did so using a financial institution account, a mobile phone, or a debit or credit card for the first time after COVID-19 started.
First account opened for gov. transfer
The percentage of respondents who report opening a financial institution account for the first time to receive money from the government.
Digital payment & variables
Mobile money has become an important enabler of financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa - especially for women - as a driver of account ownership and of account usage through mobile payments, saving, and borrowing.
At the same time, Global Findex Database 2021 also reported that people who received wages and goverment transfer through banks and mobile money accounts have higher propability to spend and save money efficiently. The regression belows examines selected factors in inflow and outflow of funds through using a mobile phone.
The percentage of respondents who report receiving any money from an employer in the past year in the form of a salary or wages for doing work, and who received it through a mobile phone.
Received government transfer
The percentage of respondents who report personally receiving any government transfer or pension from the government in the past year through a mobile phone.
Made a utility payment
The percentage of respondents who report personally making regular payments for water, electricity, or trash collection in the past year using a mobile phone.
Mobile money & variables
Financial Inclusion & Digital payment
Financial Inclusion & Mobile money
Financial Inclusion & variables
The regression models above has suggested that digital payment has a larger effect than mobile money in promoting financial inclusion.
In practice, many economies in Sub-Saharan Africa saw growth in mobile money accounts accompanied by a decline in financial institution accounts.
That said, the banking system has a longer history of development with well-established business and regulations, compared to the relatively new product of mobile money.
In practice, lack of a mobile phone is a common reason cited in Sub-Saharan Africa by 35 percent of unbanked adults for not having a mobile money account.
Enabling infrastructure has an important role to play. For example, global efforts to increase inclusive access to reliable internet connections, electricity and mobile phones could be leveraged to increase account ownership for hard-to-reach populations.
The chief actors in this effort, such as governments, telecommunications providers, and financial services providers, must also invest in regulations and governance to ensure that safe, affordable, and convenient products and functionality are available and accessible to all adults in their economies.
The World Bank. 2022. The Global Findex Database 2021: Financial Inclusion, Digital Payments, and Resilience in the Age of COVID-19
GPFI (Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion) and World Bank. 2021. “The Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Financial Inclusion."