Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 4/4/2019

Overview:
Building on 1994 reforms, which opened the telecommunication market to new entrants, Zambia’s telecommunications sector has experienced rapid growth due to increased liberalization.  Market penetration is still low while prevailing prices are high indicating the market is still open to more competition.  In 2009, Zambia established the national Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy for regulating the telecommunication sector in the country.  The Zambia Information and Communications Authority (ZICTA) is the notionally independent regulator for the ICT sector.

E-commerce is a growing market in Zambia.  There is a different growth rate for different channels and mobile commerce is by far the fastest growing. The 2016 ZICTA report indicated Zambia’s internet subscriber base fell from 6.1 million to 5.2 million in 2016 (latest data available).  The drop in 2016 is attributed to the high cost of data services, resulting in consumers using basic handsets instead of data-enabled phones.  Notable industries exploiting e-commerce space include banks and telecommunication companies.
 
The Zambian government is currently considering three draft bills on cyber security, data privacy, and e-commerce that may change the market.  As of July 2018, the bills were still being drafted by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and were not publicly available for review or comment.

Current Market trends:
Information and Communication Technologies Act Number 15 of 2009 repealed the Telecommunications Act of 1994 and the Radio Communications Act of 1994 and guides ICT operations in Zambia.  ZICTA provides for the regulation of information and communication technology; facilitates access to information and communication technologies; protects the rights and interests of service providers and consumers; and provides for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.

Zambia is experiencing a growing increase in the use of mobile commerce channels for purchases and other financial transactions through the following channels:
a)            Credit Cards
b)            Debit Cards
c)            Automated Teller Machine (ATM) bill payments
d)            Kiosks
e)            Mobile devices

The major e-commerce channel is the mobile platform because of the coverage of mobile data networks.  The government is building more communication towers to house base stations, enabling increased coverage for data access.

Domestic e-Commerce:
Most Zambians are comfortable purchasing electricity tokens, digital TV, paying their water bills, and making cardless transactions like eWallet.

Cross-Border e-Commerce:
The top countries from where Zambians make online purchases include:
a) USA (eBay)
b) USA (Amazon)
c) United Kingdom (eBay)
d) China (Alibaba)

Products range from electronics, footwear, clothing, and accessories to motor vehicle spare parts and motor vehicles.  Challenges associated with online purchases include those experienced globally, including the receipt of defective, poor quality merchandise or products sold on the basis of false information.  Other challenges include the lack of information from the service provider such as contact details, right to withdrawal, non-receipt of the item purchased, non-standard or unclear terms and conditions, added costs such as customs duty, value added tax, and import declaration fees.

B2B e-Commerce:
The Zambian government is developing a B2B portal that is developing a database of suppliers and buyers and providing electronic tools to enable buyers to submit tender information and receive bids from suppliers.  The intent is to increase trade between local small and medium enterprises and large companies. Other entities are taking advantage of the B2B concept. For example the national pension fund (NAPSA) has partnered with several banks to enable payments of pension contributions. Other partnerships include:
a) Zambia Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) is interfacing with IT companies for purchase and payment of electricity tokens;
b) Banks are partnering with private companies to provide payment platforms to enable bank accounts to be debited for online transactions;
c) Water utility companies are partnering with system integrators to allow for online payment of bills;
d) Pay television and other services and products can be paid through:

1) Mobile banking
2) SMS Banking
3) ATM
4) Kiosk
5) Website
6) Credit Cards
7) Debit cards

e-Commerce Services:
The main service providers that help key industries are:
a)         Mobile telecommunication operators providing:

1) Unstructured Supplementary Service Data services
2) Data Services
3) Short Messaging Services

b)        Banks in providing access to accounts for purchases
c)        Service providers such as:

1) Tax Organizations
2) Pensions
3) Electricity
4) Water
5) Television
6) Insurance

e-Commerce Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
The Patent and Company Registration Office has a small unit that deals with awareness and compliance but is not involved in enforcement.  The unit does not issue official guidelines on what constitutes e-Commerce IPR violations or how to file complaints.

Popular e-Commerce Sites:
The most commonly consumed platforms include:
a) Zambia Revenue Authority: This site is used to pay domestic taxes and customs services.
b) National Pension Scheme Authority
c) Patent and Company Registration Office
d) Zoona – an electronic transfer service that enables consumers to send or receive money within Zambia.  The company offers services through a distribution network of cash agents and retailers countrywide.  Through Zoona, consumers can pay bills, make loan repayments, and buy electronic vouchers.
e) Dot Com Zambia –a shopping platform allowing users to shop online from in-country (Zambia) and from international retailers located in the United Kingdom, the United States, and China.  The company also offers a digital bus ticketing system for travel within sub-Saharan Africa.

Online Payment
The most common payment methods for online e-commerce transactions in Zambia include:
a)    Mobile based

  1. Mobile money
  2. eWallet
  3. Mobile banking

b)    Credit cards
c)    Debit Cards
d)    ATM
e)    Kiosk
f)   Web sites
g)     Paybills.co.zm - a payment service that allows customers in Zambia to pay utility bills, pay television subscriptions, and buy air time using VISA or MasterCard.

Mobile e-Commerce
U.S. businesses can leverage the following vehicles for e-Commerce that have become more widely available:
a)       Mobile Apps for:

Agribusiness
Finding partners
Payments
Insurance
Banking

b)        System integration that enable systems to communicate among each other
c)        Toll gates and pre-paid tax systems
d)        Point of Sale transactions

Digital Marketing
There are very few digital marketing houses in Zambia.  Several websites offer free space for advertising on their websites, but often do not guarantee viewing benchmarks.  Companies purchase time on big digital screens located at major intersections that viewers see as they walk or drive by.  This remains a popular form of advertising in the larger cities.

Below are a few marketing houses that offer advertising opportunities:
http://www.zambiausachamber.org/
https://infozambia.com/advertise
http://www.zambiatourism.com/destinations/waterfalls/victoria-falls
http://www.livingstonetourism.com/the-victoria-falls/

Major Buying Holidays
The major consumer ‘buying holidays’ and most popular shopping days on e-Commerce in Zambia include:
a)            Christmas
b)            Black Friday (Adopted from the U.S. event following Thanksgiving)
c)            Special Tuesday (Weekly discounts offered by providers)
d)            Easter
e)            Special Thursday (Weekly discounts offered by providers)
 
Social Media
There has been a surge in social media usage, especially in the urban areas where there is mobile data coverage.  Many Zambians are turning more and more to social media to follow news and events.

The following are trending:
Facebook – attracts a younger audience
WhatsApp is very popular among all age groups
YouTube is gaining popularity among the younger generation

a)            Business networking
b)            Socializing
c)            Voice and video calls for collaboration

Neither Twitter nor Instagram is very popular in Zambia.
 

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Zambia eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce