Malawi’s uphill battle to capitalise on e-commerce
A new report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has revealed that the uptake of e-commerce in Malawi remains low and faces several challenges.
According to the report, Malawi Rapid e-Trade Readiness Assessment launched last week, despite Malawi turning its attention to the benefits of ICT for national development, efforts made to change the policy and regulatory landscape, digital economy and e-commerce are not yet well captured in national policies nor are they translated into a stand-alone strategy.
Challenges include a lack of trust in online systems, low level of internet access by the population, low internet adoption by firms, lack of access to financing and poor ICT skills.
The report continued that taxation, market and regulatory structures that do not encourage competition slow down efforts to reduce the price of mobile data packages and extension of broadband packages.
UNCTAD has recommended that the Malawian government should mainstream e-commerce into the national development programme, make further investments in the ICT sector, formulate a robust awareness programme on e-commerce and providing access to secure digital payment solution, among others.
An excerpt from the report reads: “Malawi still lags behind on internet connectivity characterised by high charges, low penetration rate and poor services provision, limited innovation and poor information low.”
Figures from Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) show that only 13.8% of the country’s population use internet.
Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe said issues raised in the report are cross-cutting and have to be addressed in a coordinated manner.
Gwengwe said, “The report has identified some areas of improvement including investment in ICT infrastructure which would surely reduce the cost of internet which remains high in Malawi and also improve connectivity which is very low in the country.”