How the COVID-19 crisis may affect electronic payments in Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis and a global humanitarian blight. In Africa, thousands of lives have been lost, and our initial estimates suggest that one-third of the working population could either lose their jobs or have their salaries reduced as the lockdowns, curfews, border closures, and shutdowns continue. A level of disruption is likely to continue until a vaccine is developed or a cure is found.

The crisis is also changing the way people live and work, consume, and pay their bills. While consumer spending is down around the world, how and where consumers choose to use their money has shifted: people are gravitating toward digital channels, products, and services across categories. At the same time, there has been a surge toward digital payments and away from cash—which the World Health Organization flagged as a possible conduit for the spread of the coronavirus. In Africa, this means not just safer, cashless payments to facilitate physical distancing during the pandemic but also, in the longer term, a shift toward financial inclusion, which could help get economies back on track more quickly after the crisis.

In our full report, available for download below, we analyze how COVID-19 is reshaping the market outlook for payments in Africa and how African banks and nonbank players are responding. Many are adapting their operating models and products to help lower barriers to mobile banking and payments and to bring more people into the cashless economy. We also highlight additional opportunities for governments, development organizations, and the private sector to work together to speed up digital adoption to support public health in the short term and strengthen the African payments landscape for long-term sustainability.

Beyond the immediate concerns of securing the health and safety of Africa’s citizens, a key focus for governments and their partners now is to find a way back to growth and to restore businesses and incomes in the wake of the crisis. The African payments industry has a key role to play in this effort.