Billion dollars of turnover in reach for Uzbekistan's e-commerce sector, says NAPP official

By Mokhi Sultanova in Tashkent May 3, 2024

Uzbekistan's e-commerce sector can achieve a turnover of $1bn by 2027, according to deputy director of the National Agency for Prospective Projects (NAPP), Davron Maksudov.

The official outlined the projection at the May 2-3 third Tashkent International Investment Forum (TIIF-2024) during a panel session on “Investing in e-commerce: trends and market prospects” convened to explore the burgeoning digital economy.

Uzbekistan, a relative newcomer in the e-commerce arena—and which has launched an international roadshow declaring the country’s IT outsourcing open for business—implemented its first e-commerce law in 2004. Legislative updates followed in 2015 and 2022. Maksudov said that with more than 50 registered e-commerce marketplaces, boasting aannual turnover of $300mn, exponential growth is anticipated.

Major global players such as Meta (Facebook), Google, Apple, Booking.com and Zoom are present in Uzbekistan's digital economy, paying annual taxes of around $5.5mn.

Panel discussions looked at e-commerce market dynamics, consumer behaviour, regulatory frameworks and investment opportunities.

Nikolay Seleznev, head of the strategy and business development department at Uzum, lately crowned Uzbekistan’s first tech unicorn, emphasised the transition from traditional bazaars to online marketplaces seen in recent years.

While the Uzbek e-commerce sector had a market value of $201mn in 2021, it recorded an overall $543mn in 2023.

Also in 2021, the sector generated $1.39bn in revenue, comprising 90.2% of the country's digital revenues, with digital media, e-services and e-health making up the remaining 9.8%. However, digital expenditures in the country remained low at 3.91% of consumer spending, compared to the regional average of 7.34% for Asia. Despite this, e-commerce revenues are expected to grow by an average of 18.7% annually by 2025.

The government is investing in telecommunications infrastructure. There were 31mn internet users in Uzbekistan as of January 2023, including 29.5mn mobile internet users and 4.4mn fixed broadband internet users.

To boost e-commerce, the government charges only a 2% tax on online revenue, permits online sales of drugs and medical devices, and allows electronic checks and invoices as legal payment confirmation. Collaboration with Visa and banks facilitates digital payments, while initiatives like the opening of an e-commerce department at Tashkent University aim to bring through many more IT professionals.

The government's Digital Uzbekistan-2030 Strategy includes plans to expand the fibre-optic communications network to 250,000 kilometres (155,000 miles) by 2030, achieve 100% high-speed internet coverage and increase admission quotas for IT educational institutions.

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