VisionFund Africa Survey of COVID Impact on Clients

Client Buwama


As a result of COVID-19, VisionFund sought to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting clients in eight African VisionFund MFIs. Determine the impact of COVID-19 on client’s businesses, spending patterns, income, and resilience. Secondly, identify any differences in impact by gender, and business sector or sub sector. Third, learn what solutions clients were seeking from VisionFund during this time.  

Survey Methodology:
The survey was administered between 27 April and 9 May 2020; conducted by VisionFund staff via phone calls. Eight VisionFund MFIs participated: DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Clients were groups into four business sectors: trade (68%), services (13%), manufacturing (2%), and agriculture (16%).
Individuals interviewed: 2,481 
Women: 1,390 (56%), men: 1,091(44%)

When these surveys were taken, Rwanda was in total lock down, four MFIs were in partial lockdown, with only three (Ghana, Malawi, and Tanzania) fully open for business. Six of the MFIs were doing minimal disbursements, two were doing selective disbursements. Not surprisingly, the main challenge to clients repaying their loans was that the business wasn’t open, or only partially open. The second reason is that they had no funds. Dashboard from 6 May 2020:

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Most VisionFund clients are struggling with reduced income – Uganda and Rwanda facing the greatest decrease. DRC has some increased income (4%) due to “other” business increases in pharmacy and services. Both male and female clients stated that their income was reduced; each at 92%. 


Biggest Challenges

The primary challenge is a decreased demand for products/services and customers don’t have money to buy goods; both go hand in hand and are the two main challenges facing small business owners. These two challenges were also true across all sectors: as high as 90% for ag to 81% in services).

Selling Assets

The good news is that as of the survey date, few people have had to sell their assets: DRC at 97% to Uganda at 83% saying they did not have to sell their assets. Those clients working in manufacturing were most affected at 24% saying they had to sell assets, while those working in trade were least affected at 12% saying yes. 

Reduced household expenses

With reduced income, food, clothing and education for children are the areas hardest hit for the family. Zambia had food as their primary area where families cut costs, while Kenya and Tanzania both cut spending primarily in clothing. Across business sectors, the top three answers were the same, in the same order.  

COVID-19 continues to be a destructive presence across all 12 of VisionFund’s operating contexts in Africa. VisionFund is deeply concerned by the devastation that COVID-19 is having on the livelihoods of families living in vulnerable conditions and poverty. VisionFund Africa is in close contact with clients, understanding their needs, and offering appropriate responses such as moratorium, rescheduling, savings withdrawal or loan renewals. VisionFund has rolled out mobile banking to most of our operating locations, ensuring our clients can access the services they need without having to visit a physical location. Our clients are resilient.

For more information, please contact or  
Managed by: VisionFund Africa MFIs; supported by Karen Lewin and Lorenz Vidad Molina, VisionFund