Postal services contribute to global social and economic development

Celebration of World Postal Day in Gokwe

On World Post Day, Dr. Jenfan Muswere, the Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier services said the Postal sector contributes to global social and economic development.

Addressing multitudes of people celebrating the day at Gokwe Town Centre, Minister Muswere said the business operating environment has been disrupted by a variety of societal restrictions put in place as part of the measures imposed to reduce the spread and risk of COVID-19 that has infected over twenty-five million (25 million) people globally.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the postal and courier sector as evidenced by the massive drop in volumes across all service categories. International courier volumes, which are key in generating income, declined significantly.  There were also challenges in the delivery of items owing to the lockdown measures in different destinations,” Dr. Muswere said.

According to the Universal Postal Union, cross-border exchanges worldwide have dropped by 21% for all international mail classes. Despite all the challenges, the ICT ministry ensured that the postal sector continued to offer its usual services albeit observing the social distancing measures.

Furthermore, the Postal Service brought convenience to consumers by providing delivery services for goods purchased on-line during the lockdown restrictions.

“This is what gives me hope, and I believe that the modernization of the sector will help us alleviate and overcome the effects of the pandemic. Globally, the postal sector is moving away from focusing on offering traditional mail business, which was predominantly letters, and is now focusing more on e-commerce, agency, and financial services to enhance financial inclusion, through the provision of e–solutions, which are cost-sensitive and widely accessible.

“As the ministry responsible for ICTs, I implore the postal and courier sector to explore and establish e-substitution solutions in line with global trends. This includes introducing mobile addresses that will eliminate the need to physically travel to a postal facility. I also urge the Post Office to consider Drone deliveries as these will eliminate risks associated with physical contact between postal staff and customers,” Minister Muswere said.

History shows that even in the era of disruptive digital transformation, postal services remain vital for the distribution of information and goods.

Postal and courier services are important because the physical product can never be delivered electronically.

“It is not possible to place an order for a Pizza electronically and then instruct the shop to ´´forward the pizza as an attachment´´!!! The Post must link the Pizza with the buyer.

“As per tradition, today we will also recognize young winners of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) International Letter-Writing competition at the National level, which has helped them to develop skills in composing and expressing their thoughts clearly and concisely. The competition has also helped to promote and strengthen bonds of international friendship, which is one of the missions of the UPU.”

Dr. Gift Machengete, the Director-General of the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) said the World Post Day, which is celebrated on the 9th of October each year was extra special as it has coincided with the launch of the Gokwe Community Information Centre (CIC).

“The launch of Gokwe CIC excites me because the site will ensure that the people of Gokwe are not left behind in the virtual world especially in view of the COVID – 19 pandemic. I, therefore, urge the people of Gokwe to make full use of this facility in terms of both acquiring ICT skills and realising the benefits of internet use to your farming activities, to your businesses, to your schooling, to your health, and to your day-to-day life in order to circumvent the negative effects of COVID–19.”

Dr. Machengete said the theme for the event is: More than Mail which was quite an apt theme considering that during this COVID–19 pandemic, the Posts are certainly delivering more than just mail.

In recognition of the import role that Posts play in the wellbeing of humanity, the Government saw it fit to declare Posts as an essential service to ensure the provision of goods and services during the COVID-19 induced lockdown. This saw, among other things, the Posts delivering medicines and food hampers to needy communities sheltering from the pandemic.

Additionally, in line with today’s theme, the Post Office has diversified to offer a host of other services that promote both financial inclusion and convenience.

“We all know that we can get our money orders at Post Offices. We can also buy insurance cover at Post Offices. Post Offices have also been essential in e-commerce and in the near future, they will be the hub for e-government services, a project which the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services is seized with, in partnership with other stakeholders including POTRAZ,” Dr. Machengete said. 

The postal operators, who responded to their 2019 Digital Postal Services Capacity Index survey, are already offering digital postal services in one way or another, either on their own or in collaboration with development partners. This proves that the postal sector is fast taking advantage of emerging technologies to diversify its operations by adding e-services to their traditional mail services as the Post Office offers More Than Mail.

Traditionally, as part of these commemorations, POTRAZ recognises and honours the winners of the UPU International Letter Writing Competition.

This is an essay competition for young people aged fifteen years and below, aimed at developing their skills and competencies in English composition writing, while keeping the culture of letter writing alive.

This year, students were asked to “write a message to an adult about the world we live in” and the overall best entry was from Ayisha Titimiri from St Josephs Primary School in Manicaland.

Of note is that Ayisha’s entry was forwarded to Bern, Switzerland to compete with other entrants from all over the world. The first prize at the International level was awarded to Phan Hoang Phuong Nhi, a seventh-grader at Duy Tan Middle School in Hue, Vietnam.

World Post Day is celebrated each year on 9 October. The event was declared by the 1969 Universal Postal Congress in Tokyo as a means to mark the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) creation in 1874. The UPU is a specialized arm of the United Nations that is charged with ensuring the provision of Postal Services around the world. Zimbabwe, as a member of the UPU, also celebrates World Post Day.

The purpose of World Post Day is to bring awareness to the Post’s role in the everyday lives of people and businesses, as well as its contribution to global social and economic development.

A special message from the Director-General of the Universal Postal Union was read during the celebrations. The message encompasses pertinent issues that influence the Posts, Business, and Communities around the world. In recognition of changes in customer needs, the Director-General has urged Posts to embrace technology and transform so as to remain an enabler of inclusive development and an essential component of the global economy. By embracing technology and transformation Posts would be able to deliver on the UPU’s original philosophy which is to serve humanity, and facilitate communication among the citizens of the world.

Across the World, member countries organize a variety of activities to celebrate this special day. As part of the World Post Day Celebrations, POTRAZ awards prizes for the national winners of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) International Letter-Writing competition.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende