Malawi’s e-commerce penetration low—Report

Malawi remains one of the least countries for e-commerce penetration, ranked at position 140 out of 152 on the global index, a latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report shows.

The 2019 UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce wwIndex, which scores 152 nations on the access to secure internet servers, the reliability of postal services and infrastructure and the portion of their population that uses the Internet, indicates that Malawi has moved seven steps from position 133 the previous year.

The report shows that Malawi’s internet usage is very low with only 14 percent of Malawi’s population having access to Internet.

UNCTAD Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index director Shamika Sirimanne is quoted in the report as having said a large number of countries including Malawi have capitilised on opportunities offered by digital economy. 

“Our Business to Consumer Index shows how real and worrying the digital gap is between developed and developing countries.

“For example, in six European nations, more than 80 percent of Internet users make purchases online. But that proportion is below 10 percent in most low and lower middle-income countries,” she said.

UNCTAD has since urged developing countries including Malawi to improve their infrastructure and build trust among their population saying businesses and people miss out on the opportunities offered by the digital economy adding that the countries will not be prepared to deal with various challenges.

In an interview on Wednesday, University of Malawi’s Chancellor College communications lecturer and internet enthusiast Jimmy Kainja said the trend speaks volumes on the need for Malawi to prioritise internet access.

He said: “The main problem is that Malawi in most cases treats internet as a luxury. Levels of internet penetration are low in comparison with other countries.

The state of Internet freedom report 2019 shows that  at the beginning of the year 2000, almost all African countries had the same  levels of internet penetration but today, 20  years later, Malawi is lagging far behind where others have a move when we have not.”

He noted majority of Malawians only have access to certain media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, which are usually not used for economic reasons but mostly for socialisation.

“Much as people can do business on say Facebook or WhatsApp, these volumes are not significant enough for us to say Malawi is doing online. The issue of access to internet is thus critical in terms of making Malawi become a major player e-commence. Government should thus make internet more affordable by fast tracking the Universal Access Band.

Malawi, is expected to have the Universal Access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Services Project from next year according to the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra)

Macra announced recently, it has set up a Universal Access Fund, which collects money from ICT players for the project’s implementation.

The universal services will among others ensure fast Internet services, especially in rural and under-served areas in the region using money from fees collected from operators.

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