A Regional e-Commerce Ecosystem Emerging from North Macedonia
The Macedonian e-Commerce Association started a few regional initiatives contributing to shaping the e-Commerce ecosystem in the Western Balkans to increase scope and accessibility.
In the last couple of years, especially in the post-pandemic period, e-Commerce has become increasingly important for all retailers across the Western Balkan region. North Macedonia is leading the way with one of the region's oldest and most reputable e-commerce associations.
Established in 2017, the Macedonian e-Commerce Association (MECA) has come a long way in improving conditions for e-Commerce businesses in the country. Working on different fronts, the Association has created a unique e-Commerce ecosystem, including a number of relevant institutions, organizations, and businesses.
The main motive of MECA is to connect all the chains of the e-Commerce ecosystem (retailers, IT companies, marketing agencies, banks, delivery services, government, and other stakeholders), push for change, and represent the entire industry internally and externally. Overall, improvements in the Macedonian e-commerce gave MECA credibility and confidence to step out and expand its influence on the whole region.
As a way to contribute to improving the e-Commerce conditions in neighboring countries, MECA started e-Commerce4all—the first regional e-commerce web platform for gathering information from other markets. Currently, data from 7 CEFTA markets are available: North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, and Moldova. The web platform serves as a knowledge and resource base for all matters related to e-commerce in each of these markets. In addition, it provides access to relevant e-commerce data, rules and regulations, e-payment, and delivery options.
Another significant MECA activity that gathers regional actors is the e-Commerce conference. In 2022, it was organized for the 5th time, convening over 600 participants from more than 150 companies and 10 countries.
Marija Ristovska, Project Manager at the Macedonian E-commerce Association, shared critical observations from the last conference, to which Swiss EP contributed with a number of keynote speakers:
The key takeaway is that there is progress and growth in e-commerce in North Macedonia and the region. However, we still need to catch up to countries in the European Union. We need to work jointly with the neighboring markets to accelerate e-commerce by removing the barriers that hinder the growth of this sector, like the problems with delivery to a different market, different regulations and legislation, different customs procedures in each market, a different way of taxation, etc.
There are still challenges to overcome, but, even if the Western Balkans is still in its early stage of e-Commerce development compared to the EU, joint efforts and collaboration between countries could accelerate the blossoming of regional trade.
The growth of the e-Commerce sector is especially favorable for startups in terms of mutual evolution and expansion. Startups often bring innovative ideas and technology to the e-commerce industry, disrupting traditional models and driving growth. E-commerce, in turn, provides startups with a large and expanding market for their products and services. In addition, many startups focus on creating solutions for specific challenges that e-commerce businesses face, such as supply chain management, payment processing, and customer acquisition. As a result, startups and e-commerce companies often work together closely, forming strategic partnerships and investing in each other.
Neighbouring markets are following the similar path, with more or less delays. However, everyone has the same goal—to make e-Commerce accessible and widespread. With collaboration and open dialogue between relevant actors in the regional e-Commerce ecosystem, we look forward to seeing it all take shape.