Mauritius tops list for e-commerce readiness in Africa

Mauritius is ranked as the least fragile country in Africa. Image courtesy: NewsFeed

Mauritius has topped the list of African countries that are best prepared for shopping online.

The island nation is ranked 55th globally in the UNCTAD Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index for 2018, which lists 151 countries and ranks them for e-commerce readiness.

The 2018 index was released on Monday at the start of the first ever Africa eCommerce Week, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya. The global index is topped by the Netherlands, Singapore and Switzerland.

“Africa trails behind the rest of the world in its preparedness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy. Three-quarters of the African population have yet to start using the Internet,” according to UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

“We estimate that there were at least 21 million online shoppers in Africa last year, less than 2% of the world total, with three countries – Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya – accounting for almost half. Nevertheless, the number of African online shoppers has surged annually by 18% since 2014, faster than the world average growth rate of 12%,” Kituyi added.

To determine the ranking, the index considers the numbers of online shoppers, access to a bank or mobile money account, and ease of payment and delivery.

Mauritius’ score was 12 points higher than the next African country.

Nigeria ranks second, largely due to reliable delivery, followed by South Africa, which leads the continent in the number of secure Internet servers per one million people – an indication of websites accepting online sales and payments.

UNCTAD says that while African countries need to boost Internet penetration to grow e-commerce, many also have to get more of its existing Internet users to trust the online market for making purchases.

Unlike markets in the European Union, where 68% of Internet users made an online purchase in 2017, the corresponding figure in Africa was only 13% on average in 2017.

Even though countries like Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe lead the continent with regards to mobile money accounts, cash-on-delivery still remains the dominant mode of payment for e-commerce in Africa.

Africa eCommerce Week is embracing the theme Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era, where UNCTAD will look at ways in which African countries can engage in and benefit from the evolving digital economy.