The Impact of COVID-19 on women-owned businesses in Africa

IFC undertook this study to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women-led MSMEs in 13 African countries. We also sought to appraise public- and private-sector interventions in sub-Saharan Africa, and to offer financial and non-financial solutions for financial institutions and development partners to consider. With this report, we hope to further strengthen outcomes for micro- and small enterprises, especially those led by women.

The study's key findings include the following:
  • Over 90% of MSMEs across sub-Saharan Africa are suffering harsh economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women-led MSMEs have been especially hard hit, with many reporting revenue losses of over 50%, largely due to their smaller size, informality, and concentration in heavily affected sectors. 
  • Women-led MSMEs entered the pandemic with lower rates of financial inclusion than male-led MSMEs, and the pandemic exacerbated these trends. Among the 13% of MSMEs that accessed financial support during the crisis, fewer were women-led MSMEs.
  • Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, over 90% of MSMEs still plan to maintain or expand their businesses over the next 6-18 months. In line with this goal, over 80% of MSMEs expressed the need for support, particularly for growth capital and expansion assistance, during the recovery.

  • Few financial institutions offer products or support services specifically designed to fully include women entrepreneurs: 60% of financial institutions surveyed said they collect gender disaggregated data but only 14% use the data to inform their business decisions. Women-led MSMEs are using digital tools at a slightly higher rate than male-led MSME and are expressing a greater need for non-financial services for customer base expansion and new product development.