The Latin American market has seen a huge growth in investment and startup growth in 2022/23. Despite this, the tech market accounts for less than two per cent of the region’s GDP according to a report from venture capital firm Atlantico.
The Atlantico report, titled Latin America Digital Transformation Report 2023, analyses the macro and tech sector in Latin America (LatAm). It includes trends in venture funding, exit valuations, tech market caps as GDP percentage, consumer habits and smartphone, fintech and e-commerce penetration. This is alongside new themes such as AI’s adoption and impact. Additionally, through original surveys, it outlines how founders and technical talent view current market conditions, and the movement of human capital.
According to the report, Latin America punched above its weight in 2022 with IPOs and M&A exits; Brazil’s Nubank ($41billion) dwarfed India’s top exit, Flipkart ($21billion). LatAm is reaching an inflection point with public tech companies and unicorns have greatly scaled and increased in number in the last five years. Fintech drives tech investment.
Response to inflation
Inflation has hit Latin America hard in 2023. The region’s biggest GDP contributors, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina have all reported inflation primarily impacting them. Chile had the highest number of respondents who did not believe inflation impacted their family (eight per cent). Meanwhile, Colombian families were reported to be the most impacted with 77 per cent saying inflation had greatly impacted them.
Despite the inflation growth, 17 per cent of Brazilians are very confident in the Central Bank’s ability to effectively manage and control inflation. In Chile, nearly half the respondents (48 per cent) are confident in the Central Bank. Argentina showed the biggest lack of confidence in the Central Bank’s ability as 41 per cent of respondents said they are not confident at all.
On the whole, the region is more confident in recovering from inflation compared to the US. Although 30 per cent of American respondents are confident in the Central Bank to some degree, meanwhile, only 29 per cent of Argentinians are.
Mobile commerce is playing a huge part in accelerating e-commerce development in LatAm. This can especially be seen in Brazil. In 2018, e-commerce only accounted for five per cent of total retail sales. At the same time in the US, it accounted for 11 per cent of total retail sales. Five years later, the gap between the two countries has diminished from six per cent to five per cent, as e-commerce has so far accounted for 11 per cent of retail sales in Brazil and 16 per cent in the US in 2023.
Bank account penetration has also increased in Latam. Between 2017 and 2021 the percentage of the banked population increased from 55 per cent to 74 per cent. Atlantico has also identified that the bottom 40 per cent of income families in LatAm have seen a larger uptake in banks. In 2017 less than half the respondents had an account while in 2021, 68 per cent did – a 25 per cent increase.
Pix, the instant payment fintech platform, is now more widely used than cash, credit or debit cards for transferring money in Brazil. Its usage has increased so much that it is even outdoing India’s UPI. Other payment trends seen in LatAm involve open banking. The technology’s introduction in Brazil is on track to be extremely successful.
While still nascent in LatAm, AI is entering a period of extreme growth. It has already achieved extraordinary results in closing socioeconomic gaps in healthcare, education and access to financial services. Half of Latin American tech founders expect AI to heavily impact their sector.
Julio Vasconcellos, Atlantico’s founder and managing partner, comments: “As our report enters its fourth year, we again see reasons for regional optimism. The past half-decade has witnessed considerable growth in venture funding and startup activity, hinting at a prelude to more significant shifts. Fintech is a notable example, offering a glimpse into untapped potential across sectors.
“For instance, Brazil’s PIX, the world’s fastest-growing payment network, has swiftly superseded conventional transactions, illustrating the realm of possibilities. Meanwhile, Latin America’s tech landscape, currently contributing a mere two per cent to the region’s GDP, presents opportunities awaiting further innovation. In contrast, India’s and China’s tech landscapes represent 11 per cent and 20 per cent of their GDP respectively. This divergence sets the stage for the imminent room for tech growth in LatAm”.