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Experts decry online trading challenges

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DZABALA—People want to physically hold items

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts have singled out lack of trust on online platforms and high data costs among factors affecting online trading.

They have also mentioned lack of platforms to link online trading to payment systems among the bottlenecks.

A snap survey by The Daily Times has revealed that trade linkages are often conducted on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook while actual trading websites are poorly patronised.

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The survey has found that 67 percent of online trading sites established between 2017 and 2020 closed shop while the remaining 33 percent are struggling to survive due to low patronage.

This is coming at a time online trading was expected to pick up between 2019 and 2020 owing to the Covid pandemic which brought restrictions on social gatherings and physical trading.

In an interview Macheza Dzabala, whose platform called Dibs Africa shrinked during the period, said the concept is new to Malawi.

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“for example if you want to purchase a phone you would want to physically hold it before you buy it and in countries such as Rwanda online trading shot through the roof during Covid period because the lockdowns were stringent, people were not allowed to go out of their homes and they had to make purchases through the internet but in Malawi the measures were not as strict,” Dzabalala said.

In a separate interview Esau Chinkhwezule, who also runs a platform called www.izemall.com said the low uptake was exacerbated by lack of trust and myths surrounding online buying.

ICT Association of Malawi President Bram Fudzulani said there was a need for the Ministry of Trade to have a department that would track such trades for policy direction.

“We need a framework that can allow online businesses to integrate with our payments switch and facilitate real time payment processing. This would allow people to go online, do all their shopping and check out without merchants having to worry about getting their payment,” Fudzulani said.

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