Malawi has dropped eight steps to 129 on the 2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) business-to-consumer (B2C) index.
The latest B2C assessed 137 economies on their readiness to engage in online commerce.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi, in an interview on Thursday, said despite poor performance on the international scene, Malawi has made improvements on e-commerce locally.
The 137 economies represent 96 percent of the world population and 99 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to Unctad.
Among the top 10 economies on the index, six are from Europe, three from Asia-Pacific region and one from North America.
The index, which draws on data on Internet usage, secure servers, credit card use and reliability of postal deliveries, shows that e-commerce readiness varies with just over a fifth of the population in Africa using Internet compared to two-thirds in Western Asia.
The rankings are based on four pillars—share of individuals using Internet and credit cards and secure Internet servers per one million people. Malawi has performed poorly in these variables.
On the regional level, Malawi is below neighbours Zambia (110), Tanzania (107), Zimbabwe (103) and South Africa (61).
Among developing countries, three high-income economies, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong (China) and Singapore rank the highest while South Africa is the front-runner in e-commerce readiness on the African continent, according to the report published on Unctad on Friday.
“Africa ranks the lowest in all the indicators. Unless there is improvement in the underlying transactions and logistics processes, online shopping in Africa is likely to remain confined to relatively well-off people in cities.
“An increasing number of countries are designing national policies and strategies to harness the full potential of e-commerce for economic development and the Unctad index can help policy makers assess to what extent their economies are e-commerce ready and what areas are in greatest need of improvement,” reads the statement accompanying the report.
But Nkombezi said despite not doing well in e-commerce, the country has been able to engage in some e-commerce transaction, a sector he said is developing fast.
He said: “If you look at the [commercial] bank’s programme, reforms in the Malawi Posts Corporation to do with e-commerce and the establishment of one-stop-centres across the country, reforms in the Ministry of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education, especially on the electronic bill, as well as financial sector reforms at the Reserve Bank of Malawi, you will see that Malawi is making strides.
“We should be able to increase e-commerce tremendously once all these are implemented, but meanwhile trade is still happening.”
Online shopping is directly related to access to Internet, whose penetration levels in Malawi are low. n