The regulatory landscape in Central America: Updates from Guatemala
Last week, I travelled to Guatemala City to deliver a DFS Regulatory Diagnostic Report to the local financial authorities. The executive summary can be found here. This report was written with the help of Marulanda Consultores over the course of 2016.
When I joined the GSMA in 2014, one of my first projects was to conduct a regulatory landscaping exercise of Latin America and the Caribbean, to identify markets where regulatory change could unlock financial inclusion. Different variables were taken into account such as financial inclusion rates, the appetite of operators and market size.
Central America stood as a very attractive region for our objectives, with low levels of financial inclusion, high mobile penetration and a nascent and dynamic mobile money industry in need of enabling regulation. Among the countries in Central America, Guatemala stood out: it has the largest population in the sub-region (16.5 million), a financial inclusion rate of only 40%, close to 100% mobile penetration, and one of the region’s most prestigious and technical financial authorities, the Banguat and the Superintendencia de Bancos (SIB). Not to mention the huge flows of international remittances that could be formalised and digitised through mobile money.
Improving financial inclusion in Guatemala seemed attainable. If the country adopted a mobile money-enabling regulatory framework, the mobile money industry could have a more solid ground to invest and expand, and the national financial inclusion levels could increase significantly. This, in my mind, could have set an example for other countries in Central America, resulting in a financial inclusion snowball effect.
<Yes, this is what regulatory nerds working on social development daydream about, and is the background story of the report I presented last week to the Guatemalan regulators.>
Political change in Guatemala – specifically, the “primavera chapina” popular movement and the resignation of the country’s president in September 2015 – delayed the launch of the national financial inclusion strategy, mobile money regulation, and our diagnostic study. The new government has been in power since January 2016, but launching a financial inclusion strategy and issuing mobile money enabling regulation has taken longer than expected.
Fortunately, the planned snowball effect was not needed for El Salvador and Honduras to step ahead, implementing mobile money enabling regulation and joining a larger regional trend that we have highlighted and celebrated in the past.
Now, Guatemala is making strides to catch up, but the good news is that the local regulators are determined to act on the learnings of their regional peers. The Superintendente de Bancos, José Alejandro Arévalo, is leading the charge, setting up a technical committee responsible for the design of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, of which mobile money enabling regulations will be an important pillar.
We hope that our report can provide valuable insights for the team drafting the much-needed mobile money regulation.
You can check out the executive summary of the report (in Spanish).
Download the executive summary
For a full copy of the report, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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