Africa's postal services slow to grasp digital transformation

Africa’s postal services slow to grasp digital transformation

Research by Universal Postal Union (UPU) reflects on imbalance of e-commerce services on the continent.

Post offices in Africa are waking up to the reality of digital transformation and continue to implement new ways to support delivery, according to Universal Postal Union (UPU).

However, despite the awareness, research by the Union suggests low internet penetration and lack of policy to effectively govern innovation in certain regions is hampering the roll out and adoption of next-generation postal services.

An excerpt from the UPU Digital Postal Survey 2017, reads: "The dispersion of e-commerce services across the UPU regions is more even, except in Africa, where implementation of e-services is below the world average. Africa is the only region where none of the e-services exceed the worldwide average."

Despite these statistics, UPU did make reference to the sector's willingness to adopt digital solutions.

The report stated: "Between 2015 and 2017, the perception of new technology as having a positive impact on digital postal services saw a steep uptrend in the region. In 2017, on average, African Posts saw it as a high impact area: 54% vs. 33% in 2015, an increase of 21 percentage points."

This is compared to industrialised countries which, in terms of digital adoption, featured an average of 56%.

Technologies like the use of sensors (IOT) applied to postal infrastructure including postal vehicles and mailboxes went up 40 points.

Kenya and the Ivory Coast are believed to be in the process of developing the e-mailbox, while the concept is already operational in South Africa.

"In addition, issues critical to data privacy and security (cyberattack, cyber-security standards and technologies) and big data, data analytics and cloud computing technologies trended positively (26 and 21 points, respectively)," the report stated.

Other technology trends likely to make a digital mark in postal services include blockchain-backed technologies in identity, logistics and virtual currency, as well as the use of mobile wallets in payments and drone delivery.

"The trend suggests that regional posts have understood the positive impact of new technology and are increasingly moving towards adoptions to improve their postal e-service operations," the UPU stated.