Women's groups and COVID-19: An evidence review on savings groups in Africa

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and some of the associated policy responses have resulted in significant gendered impacts that may reverse recent progress in gender equality, including in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper presents emerging evidence from studies in diverse contexts in sub-Saharan Africa -with a deep dive into Nigeria and Uganda-on how COVID-19 has affected women's groups, especially savings groups, and how these groups have helped mitigate the gendered effects of the pandemic's and the associated policy responses' consequences up until April 2021. The synthesis presents evidence that savings groups found ways to continue operating, provided leadership opportunities for women during the pandemic, and mitigated some of the negative economic consequences of COVID-19 on individual savings group members. Savings, credit, and group support from other members all likely contributed to the ability of groups to positively affect the resilience of women's group member during COVID-19. Households with a female member in a savings group in Nigeria and Uganda have coped with the crisis better than those not in savings groups. While savings groups have shown the potential for resilience during the pandemic, they often faced financial challenges because of decreased savings, which sometimes resulted in the depletion of group assets. Savings groups also contributed to community responses and provided women a platform for leadership. These findings are consistent with a recent evidence synthesis on how past covariate shocks affected women's groups and their members. We conclude the paper by presenting various policy recommendations to enable savings groups to achieve improvements in women's empowerment and economic outcomes, and research recommendations to address some of the current evidence gaps on how COVID-19 is affecting women's groups and their members.