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COVID-19 Pandemic impacts the Economic Resilience and Financial Behaviour of GEEP Beneficiaries

Financial inclusion has been a focal target and strategy for the Nigerian government, especially towards alleviating poverty. To achieve this, not only has a financial inclusion strategy been developed and continues to be implemented, but social investment programmes have also been designed towards getting them financially underserved and excluded into the included bracket. One of these programmes is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP), an initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria to facilitate financial inclusion and provide access to micro-credit for Nigerians at the bottom of the economic pyramid, under which three products were created, namely: MarketMoni, TraderMoni and FarmerMoni.

When Nigeria announced the lockdown of major cities in March 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was widely expected that the impact of the pandemic, and associated preventive measures, would be short-lived. More than a year later, people, businesses and the economy are still adapting to a new reality, with the journey towards recovery only just beginning for many people and businesses. It was critical to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and businesses of GEEP beneficiaries – to understand their experiences, how they were adjusting to the crisis, and to share insights that stakeholders could utilise to support beneficiaries, the most vulnerable segments of society, by leveraging insights to ensure the journey towards recovery is fully inclusive.

With the support and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), commissioned 60 Decibels to undertake a series of 18 outbound phone surveys/interviews over 36 weeks through August 2020 to May 2021, collecting data (twice per month) from GEEP’s beneficiaries across Nigeria’s six(6) geopolitical regions, in order to understand direct Covid-19 pandemic effect on the livelihoods of households in Nigeria and enable evidence-based decision making and responsive interventions.

The key insights generated from over 11,000 interviews conducted in approximately 237 hours, with micro, small and medium-scale enterprise (MSMEs) owners across various sectors of the Nigerian economy, provides policymakers, regulators and financial market actors with data that can better inform the efforts towards supporting the recovery of these businesses, and impact the bottom of the pyramid commercial actors across Nigeria.

These survey report findings are now available to the public and can be downloaded on a dedicated site (www. insights.geep.ng), and the available reports include:

(a.) Standard reports – which detail the general findings of each of the 18 survey rounds; and,
(b.)Customised reports – which allows further analysis and insights to be generated from the surveys specific to regions, sectors, gender, etc. for research or decision-making purposes.
Some of the key findings across the survey rounds include:

a. Coping Mechanisms: Across rounds, savings emerged as a top coping mechanism for respondents (about 75 – 98% of respondents confirmed), with a small proportion (between 13-16% of respondents) using more drastic mechanisms such as selling off assets and borrowing from both the formal financial sector and social networks (28 – 35%) – aworrying note on how COVID-19 has compromised household resilience. However, along these mechanisms, 10% of respondents were able to find new income sources to manage during the period.

b. Impact on Business Income: Respondents report persistent concern about COVID-19, driven by inability to work or earn income. 4 in 5 beneficiaries (over 80%) have suffered a reduction in income.
c. Impact on Farming: Across rounds, FarmerMoni beneficiaries have struggled to acquire inputs and manage with tighter finances. At the last round, 40% of farmers noted that they were unable to acquire inputs, while over 55% admitted to limited finance as a challenge to their farming practice – this provides an opportunity to either expand credit to farmers or work with input providers to tie their products to funding.

d. Impact on Business: Unsurprisingly, impact and lockdown were closely correlated. Given the low demand and supply stemming from closure due to movement restrictions, most beneficiaries experienced low income. The reopening of the economy by the government on September 30, 2020, allowed business owners the flexibility and freedom to re-open and re-hire employees. At its low point in round 3 (September 30 – October 9, 2020), only about half of employers (49%) were able to cover employee salaries, at the last round in May 2021 4 in 5 (78%) could do so.

e. Food consumption and Hunger: There has been a reduction in consumption and a rise in hunger. Respondents consumed less than they did and were more likely to experience hunger after than before the pandemic. Despite high reports of decreased consumption at the beginning of the survey, the most extreme reports dropped by half over the course of data collection. At the last round in May 2021, over 55% admitted to a decrease in food consumption in their households. On average, 3 in 5 respondents went hungry when they would not normally.

f. Cash Accessibility: Compared to the first round of data collection in August 2020, survey findings continued to show a rise in ease of access to cash among clients. 29% of beneficiaries said it was “very easy” to access cash in August 2020, but in May 2021, 57% admitted that access to cash had become “very easy”.

g. Loan Repayment: Findings show loan repayment remained a heavy burden for beneficiaries. More than 3 in 5 active GEEP beneficiaries explained that they struggled to repay their loan.
h. Overall Financial Situation: Households reported a worsening in their financial situation since the beginning of the pandemic, highlighting the long-lasting nature of the crisis. At the last round of data collection in May 2021, over 90% of respondents reported a “worse” situation since the pandemic started.
We are pleased to invite you to the formal dissemination events to discuss the survey findings, key lessons, recommendations and required interventions. Please see the events and registration details below.

• Event 1 – “Covid-19 Impact – Insights from the Vulnerable
This event is a seminar that will elicit discussions on required policy responses and interventions, targeted at stakeholders including public sector leaders and policymakers, development partners, Nigerian business community including product managers of financial institutions and the Technology start-up ecosystem, as well as the general public.
– Date: Thursday, 30 September 2021
– Time: 10 am to 12 pm (WAT)
– Venue: Virtual. Register to attend at: bit.ly/GPcovid-19-impact

• Event 2 – “Covid 19 Impact – Data Deep Dive”
This event is a workshop that will provide a deep dive into survey data, targeted at Research community, Academia and interested stakeholders.
– Date: Thursday, 07 October 2021
– Time: 10 am to 12 pm (WAT)
– Venue: Virtual. Register to attend at: bit.ly/GPcovid-19-impact

The survey findings have informed several interventions and the refinement of the strategy for several programs at the Bank of Industry, the executors of GEEP; we expect that it will also initiate and drive appropriate responses from stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

About GEEP
The Government Enterprise & Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is an initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria, launched in 2016 to provide financial inclusion and access to micro-credit for Nigerians at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The program has leveraged on three (3) loan products with close to 2.5million borrowers, so far, to support small to medium-sized businesses. The programme’s current loan products are: MarketMoni, TraderMoni and FarmerMoni. For more information, please go towww.growthplatform.me.

About Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) is a non-profit organization that currently advises on and manages more than $400 million in annual giving by individuals, families, corporations, and major foundations. Continuing the Rockefeller family’s legacy of thoughtful, effective philanthropy, RPA remains at the forefront of philanthropic growth and innovation, with a diverse team led by experienced grantmakers with significant depth of knowledge across the spectrum of issue areas. Founded in 2002, RPA has grown into one of the world’s largest philanthropic service organizations and has facilitated more than $3 billion in grantmaking to over 70 countries. RPA serves as a fiscal sponsor for more than 90 projects, providing governance, management, and operational infrastructure to support their charitable purposes. For more information, please go to www.rockpa.org.

About 60 Decibels
60 Decibels is an impact project measurement company that helps organizations around the world better understand their beneficiaries, suppliers, and beneficiaries. Its proprietary approach, Lean Data, brings beneficiary-centricity, speed, and responsiveness to impact project measurement. 60 Decibels has a network of 750+ trained Lean Data researchers in 50+ countries who speak directly to beneficiaries to understand their lived experience. By combining voice, SMS, and other technologies to collect data remotely with proprietary survey tools. 60 Decibels helps clients listen more effectively and benchmark their social performance against their peers. For more information, please go to www.60decibels.com.

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