Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Mexico lead the ranking of the Global Microscope on the environment for financial inclusion, an index that focuses on regulation, political strategies, and infrastructure to address this issue. In these four countries, financial inclusion is a priority and incorporates digital approaches. While Colombia and Mexico lead public policy and consumer protection categories, Uruguay and Peru stand out in stability and financial integrity. In addition, Argentina, Costa Rica and Uruguay occupy the top positions in the field of infrastructure, which confirms for the second consecutive year, Latin America’s leadership in the field.
In its 2019 edition, the Global Microscope analyzes the regulation and policies used by governments and regulatory bodies of 55 emerging countries to improve financial inclusion among their populations. New this year, the study incorporates 11 indicators that assess how governments face the gender gap in terms of financial inclusion. The main findings were presented at FOROMIC 2019, the leading event in Latin America and the Caribbean on issues related to financial inclusion.
Colombia is the nation that leads the ranking and stands out for the formal adoption of a regulatory environment for tests of financial innovations (regulatory sandbox), which began this past May, and adds to other regulations approved in 2018 for collective financing and bank investments in Fintech companies.
The 2019 Microscope shows that Costa Rica, Argentina and El Salvador presented the most significant ascents in the region. Costa Rica and Argentina have issued financial inclusion strategies. The Argentine Central Bank approved regulations that allowed the creation of agent networks, one of the main areas of improvement identified in previous editions of this index. Meanwhile, El Salvador is working on the creation of a supervisory framework for digital payments. Brazil’s position is also noteworthy for reducing its requirements for opening electronic money accounts, and remains as the digital transactions’ leader in the region.
The Dominican Republic, together with Uruguay, joins the list of countries with data protection and cybersecurity laws in response to the challenges of the digital age. The Caribbean state approved cybersecurity regulations that apply to all financial institutions, and has begun to address regulations for the promotion and use of financial technologies, through a public-private team that collaborates in the promotion of mechanisms such as digital payments. For its part, the government of Uruguay issued in October 2018 a data protection law applicable to database owners and data processors in all economic sectors.
The 11 new indicators to assess the role of women in financial inclusion reveal that there are no legal requirements differentiated by gender in the countries evaluated, with the exception of Cameroon. However, collecting data on the use of financial services by women remains a pending issue for most governments. Only one third of the countries analyzed include a gender approach in their financial inclusion strategies, and a minority have established clear gender-related objectives as part of these strategies. Practical impediments, such as access to identification, connectivity and mobile phones, limit women’s ability to take advantage of the growing digital channels for financial inclusion.
The Global Microscope is prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), with financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Center for Financial Inclusion of Action, IDB Invest and IDB Lab. First published in 2007, it is the global standard for the analysis of the environment for financial inclusion in developing countries. For more information, download the Global Microscope 2019 at https://digital-iadb.lpages.co/idb-invest-global-microscope-2019/