Malawi: Buying and Selling
Malawi has been comparatively slow to embrace the internet and e-commerce in general as poor infrastructure and high taxes make internet access prohibitively expensive for the majority of Malawians, resulting in low access rates across the country.
Internet accessData from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows that as of December 2017 Malawi had an internet penetration rate of 9.5%.
According to a 2017 report issued by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (Cipesa), Malawi, which has four operational telecommunication service providers, including Airtel and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), has the lowest penetration rate for mobile services in southern Africa, only 36%. The service offered can be unreliable, with a weak signal and daily congestion. Call rates are also among the highest in the region.
A national fibre backbone is nearing completion, while the country recently gained access to international submarine fibre optic cables via a transit link from neighbouring countries.
The most popular web search engines in Malawi are Google (93.3%), Bing and Yahoo (5.5% and 1.6% respectively).E-commerce marketE-commerce is still in its infancy in Malawi, as the country lacks the ICT and online payment infrastructures necessary to boost this sector.
In UNCTAD’s 2018 B2C E-commerce Index, Malawi ranked 134th out of 151 economies worldwide in terms of e-commerce, and 31st out of 44 African countries.
Recently, banks and mobile network providers have been working to implement m-commerce applications including m-banking, m-shopping, mobile information services, m-marketing and m-health. However, the range of applications is being limited by a number of technical, business and policy challenges. For example, with TNM Mpamba or Airtel Money, Malawians are able to pay water bills, buy prepaid electricity tokens, pay television subscription and buy phone vouchers. Malawi’s e-commerce market offers a small range of goods and services, with Jumia.mw being the biggest marketplace.
Main social networks used in the country are Facebook (with an estimated 720,000 users as of December 2017, a 3.8% penetration rate), Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube; while Whatsapp is the main instant messaging app.
Malawi’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Sosten Alfred Gwengwe, said during the project will contribute to Malawi’s long-term objective of inclusive wealth creation supported by an inclusive financial system and digital economy.
The African Development Bank Country Manager for Malawi, Macmillan Anyanwu, said the signing was an important step towards promoting the use of electronic transactions in #Malawi to increase access to affordable financial services, particularly amongst women, youth, and rural dwellers. “The project will also enable more efficient business transactions, offering small businesses the opportunity to gain access to new markets,” he said.