In a nation where more than half the population is unbanked, Mexico's new leftist government recently announced it is planning a digital payments system that will allow citizens to make and receive payments through their smartphones free of charge. A pilot roll-out for the platform, known as CoDi, is expected by March."
Whether Mexico's state system will prove as nimble and easy to use remains to be seen. And it will initially require help from the very same banks that for decades have shut out low-income Mexicans with pricey fees. Other hurdles include Mexico's spotty telecoms. While cell phone and internet coverage have improved in recent years, basic infrastructure is still missing in many remote areas. "Mexico has a lot of the key ingredients to succeed, but it's not plug and play," said Monica Brand Engel, a partner at Quona Capital, a global venture capital firm that invests in fintechs focused on the unbanked in emerging markets. An estimated 42 million Mexicans lack bank accounts. Steep fees and past scandals have put many off the country's mainstream banks. Many shun accounts to stay off the radar of tax collectors.