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UNCTAD survey shows COVID-19’s impact on e-commerce in poorer countries


The data collected from 250 companies in 23 countries in Africa and Asia showed that while COVID-19 pushed more consumers in developing countries to buy online, many e-commerce businesses saw a slump in sales.

According to UNCTAD, despite new, coronavirus-induced opportunities for digital business models, the outlook looks challenging for many of the e-commerce businesses surveyed. Two-thirds reported rising operational costs since the outbreak, and 44% expect to cut their workforce.

Below are some of the key findings

  • Third-party online marketplaces have performed better than e-commerce companies. In a nutshell, wholly-digital business models have been more resilient to the current crisis.

  • The pandemic has accentuated the trend towards greater adoption of social media and growth in sales through e-commerce websites. Shifts in consumption habits have also been observed, driven by the need for sourcing essential items.

  • E-payments have experienced fast growth, but cash on delivery remains prominent.

  • While the pandemic has been an opportunity for many digital-driven business models, business outlook looks challenging for a significant share of e-commerce businesses.

  • The pandemic has reinforced pre-existing bottlenecks in the e-commerce ecosystem that countries need to address to benefit from e-commerce development by enhancing their e-trade readiness.

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