The power of e-commerce to create jobs and increase trade in Myanmar was in the spotlight on 30 October, as government officials, development partners, donors and the private sector met in the southeast Asian nation’s capital Nay Pyi Taw to discuss ways to support online business.
“The Ministry of Commerce is committed to making e-commerce a powerful engine for economic growth, inclusive trade and job creation in Myanmar,” Deputy Minister of Commerce U Aung Htoo said.
The event marked the national presentation of UNCTAD’s Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment of Myanmar. The assessment, first published in April, was carried out by UNCTAD with funding provided by the Government of Sweden.
“The Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment has identified priority actions that we should undertake to accelerate the uptake of e-commerce and remove barriers to trade,” the deputy minister said.
“To fully realize the benefits of e-commerce, we need a national strategy that will align different stakeholders towards a common vision. The assessment provides a roadmap for what needs to be done, but we need to coordinate our policies and activities,” he added.
The assessment has set out a range of concrete policy steps to strengthen the enabling environment for e-commerce in Myanmar.
“Myanmar should build on the strengths identified by the study: a competitive telecommunications sector, a growing tech-savvy youth population, innovative logistics solutions for the door-to-door delivery of e-commerce parcels and a fledgling tech start-up scene,” Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics at UNCTAD, said.
Coordinated policy actions
Although e-commerce is snowballing in Myanmar, particularly in Yangon and Mandalay, proactive policy measures will be needed for it to achieve its full potential to boost trade and create jobs.
Reforms to the legal system, for example, would increase trust in online transactions. An improved national postal address system would make it easier for businesses to deliver small parcels across the country, and more venture capital would support promising start-ups and entrepreneurs.
“UNCTAD and other development partners are here to help Myanmar seize the development opportunities offered by e-commerce. From increasing financial inclusion in rural areas to upgrading the digital business skills of recent college graduates, we are here to support you,” Ms. Sirimanne said.
Participants at the donor roundtable agreed that a holistic approach was needed, with coordinated policy actions across different ministries, departments and agencies.
Development partners, donors and private sector representatives also said that much more needs to be done.
“We are very much encouraged by the initiative taken by the Ministry of Commerce to convene a donor roundtable on digital economy and e-commerce,” Johann Hesse, Head of Cooperation for the European Union Delegation to Myanmar, said.
“This comes after several public-private dialogue meetings during which the dynamic tech start-up and e-commerce players shared their challenges and concerns, but also opportunities.”
eTrade for all
Sweden funded the Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment of Myanmar as part of its support to UNCTAD’s eTrade for all initiative.
The initiative provides countries with capacity-building solutions for e-commerce and helps different partners work well together.
Of the initiative’s 29 partners, five participated in the event in Myanmar:
- Enhanced Integrated Framework
- World Bank Group
- International Trade Centre
- Universal Postal Union
- United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
Since the launch of Rapid eTrade Readiness programme in 2016, fifteen assessments have been undertaken for Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.
With the support of key donors, at least ten additional least developed countries and other developing countries will benefit from the programme by the end of 2019.