August 2023
5 minutes

Visualised: Latin America’s unbanked population

Claire Shaw – Portfolio Director

Key Points

  • As of 2021, 178 million Latin Americans were considered unbanked, meaning they had no bank account
  • While the ecommerce market is booming in Latin America, having a large unbanked population puts their economies at a disadvantage
  • Creative payment solutions, such as those posed by ecommerce company MercadoLibre, help these populations access digital markets

As with any investment, your capital is at risk.

Did you know that in 2021, a staggering 122 million people aged 15 and over in Latin America lacked access to conventional banking services?

This figure highlights the pressing need to address financial exclusion in the region, especially considering its booming ecommerce market.

In this article, we shed light on the unbanked population in Latin America and examine the steps being taken to provide them with banking services.


Mapping Latin America’s unbanked populations

  • Mexico 50%
  • Peru 43%
  • Colombia 40%
  • Argentina 28%
  • Brazil 16%
  • Chile 13%

Source: World Bank figures date from 2021, except Mexico, 2022.


The number of people without access to banking services in Latin America differs by country. In Colombia, for instance, 40 per cent of the population is unbanked. However, approximately two million individuals opened bank accounts in 2019, which decreased the overall unbanked population from 54 per cent in 2017 to its current level.

The reduction of Argentina’s unbanked population has been relatively slow compared to other parts of Latin America. This can be attributed, in part, to the delayed implementation of its real-time payment system, which only came online in 2020.

Enter MercadoLibre

Being unbanked means you can’t access safe, modern payment and savings options, as well as ecommerce. So, the need to tackle financial exclusion is more important than ever. MercadoLibre is poised to make a significant impact in this regard.

Using its creative digital payment solutions and cash deposit options, MercadoLibre is determined to bridge the gap for unbanked populations in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, among other countries.

Digital banking for all

Addressing financial exclusion in Latin America should help unbanked citizens gain access to online shopping and safe, modern banking solutions. But there is more work to do.

As one of Scottish Mortgage’s pioneers of digitisation, MercadoLibre is helping to secure a place for the unbanked in Latin America’s booming ecommerce market.


This infographic was produced in collaboration with Visual Capitalist.

About the author - Claire Shaw

Portfolio Director

Claire Shaw is a portfolio director and plays a prominent role in servicing Scottish Mortgage’s UK shareholder base. Before joining in 2019, she spent over a decade as a fund manager with a focus on managing European equity portfolios for a global client base. With a background in analysing companies and communicating investment ideas, Claire is also responsible for creating engaging content that makes the Scottish Mortgage portfolio accessible to all its shareholders. Beyond that, she works closely with the managers, meeting with portfolio companies and conducting in-depth portfolio discussions with shareholders.

Important information

This communication was produced and approved at the time stated and may not have been updated subsequently. It represents views held at the time of production and may not reflect current thinking.

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