Postal services in the country started to go under when the internet began to make a mark. This happened more than a decade ago when people got access to low-cost phones, and could reach out to friends and family through those handhelds via calls, SMS or internet messaging. SMSes, as well as emails, can be thanked for having undercut the power of sending letters – but in defense of technology, traditional postal services had to go because they were slow, sometimes cluttered, and with deteriorating convenience.
Still, we receive our power bills (for groups that have not been served by the digital modules supplied by Kenya Power for purchasing power tokens without going to a KP station) via postal mails; we send our loved ones taking national exams success cards using the Posta Kenya. We receive interviews or employment letters via the corporation, and in some cases, we use their courier services to send parcels both locally and abroad.
In my opinion, postal services are not going anywhere, although their superiority in the communications system in Kenyan has unquestionably dwindled. The state wants the corporation to work, and so are other organizations, including logistics organizations, e-commerce companies, and mobile operators that know they can financially benefit from a functional and robust postal system in Kenya.
According to ICT sector statistics from April to June 2019 (Q4 for the FY 2018/2019) that were presented by the ICT watchdog the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the number of letters that were sent locally in the period under review declined to 9.7 million from 11.2 million registered in the preceding quarter. As expected, the drop was linked to mobile messaging services because what is the first way to pass a message to a relative who’s miles away? A letter of a WhatsApp message?
To this end, Safaricom has partnered with Postal Corporation of Kenya. The collaboration is centered around Mpost, a service that will roll out digital Post Office Boxes for any user with a Safaricom number – adding to more than 5 million traditional addresses that exist at the moment.
The service can be accessed by dialing *234*1*9#, after which you can register your mobile number as a postal address. It will only cost you KES 300 yearly.
The registration exercise involves choosing a Post Office that is next to your neck of the woods for easy pick up of letters or parcels. Currently, Posta Kenya has more than 600 stations strewn across the country. Those who wish to change their location can do so from the access code at no extra cost.
Once that is done, your postal address will be in the format of P.O. Box 2547********, which essentially is a customer’s phone number. Customers will be able to track their mails via SMS alerts. Deliveries are said to take no more than 7 days.
Those who want mails and parcels to be delivered at their doorstop can do so but at an extra fee.
So, how does Safaricom come into play? Well, their phone numbers will be used as addresses. Secondly, Safaricom’s M-PESA is used as a channel to paying that KES 300 service fee. The same mobile money platform is also used by customers who purchase products from China’s AliExpress, which are then delivered to a postal centre, only that it will be easier following the announcement. Also, remember, imported products are liable to tax, so custom reps will be at the station for tax purposes.
Lastly, the CA reported that it is in the last stages of developing the national addressing system that will make it easier to identify streets, which, according to Ms. Julia Yampan of the ICT Ministry, ‘will go a long way in stimulating and enhancing national security and the growth of e-commerce and m-commerce in the country, and thus open up additional opportunities for the Post.’