New UNCTAD survey shows impacts of COVID-19 on e-commerce in poorer nations

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a new study entitled ‘COVID-19 and e-Commerce Impact on Businesses and Policy Responses’, which is based on a survey that produced hard-to-collect data from 23 countries (mainly in Africa and Asia) to explore the impacts of the pandemic on different actors in the digital economy. The survey found that while some digital businesses are demonstrating resilience, costs are mounting for others. ‘We found that wholly digital businesses, especially third-party online marketplaces, have been more resilient during the current crisis. Even with the growing demand for e-commerce, most businesses have struggled to adapt and scale-up their operations online,’ explained UNCTAD Technology and Logistics Director Shamika N. Sirimanne. According to the study, there is a notable increase in digital financial services in the nations surveyed, mostly least developed countries, since consumers are keen on social distancing to limit their exposure to the virus while purchasing life essentials such as food, medicine, health, and hygiene products. Yet, e-commerce businesses have been subject to challenges during the crisis, especially pertaining to disrupted supply chains, logistical problems due to restrictions on the movement of people, and high broadband costs. This was eased by some measures taken by the public and private sectors which made it possible for businesses and consumers to use e-commerce services.