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In 2020, the State Bank of Pakistan forecasts total e-commerce activity in Pakistan to have more than tripled since 2016-17. The growth of the Pakistani e-commerce sector has largely been in spite of government policy action (or lack thereof), not because of it. Despite e-commerce being recognized as an important tool to boost small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), employment and exports, the policy response has been slow.
In October 2019, the Ministry of Commerce released an e-commerce policy, five years after beginning the process of its formulation. The existing growth, growing demand, and increased interest from the political leadership were instrumental in catalyzing the publication of this policy.
The Ministry of Commerce’s e-commerce policy has been formulated at the same time as the emergence of a much wider policy interest in Pakistan’s digital opportunity, manifest in the Prime Minister’s Digital Pakistan initiative, the State Bank of Pakistan’s financial inclusion efforts and its National Payments Systems Strategy.
This paper examines the e-commerce policy from the perspective of the wider market context, the overall technology ecosystem, and the public policy architecture that the policy has been formulated for.