African countries promote USO at postal meeting

Eleven Southern African countries have taken steps towards harmonising postal policy at a ministerial conference in Botswana. Last month, ministers from 11 countries officially committed to universal service and to expanding “access to services…to geographical regions in which the postal service is non-existent or limited”.

They also expressed support for providing services that are affordable and accessible with a certain level of quality.

Countries participating in the agreement were: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The communications and technology ministers met in Gaborone, Botswana and proposed sweeping revisions to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on postal services.  These included new sections on the universal service, information and communications technology (ICT) and stakeholder relations.

The amendments were drafted in collaboration with Juan Ianni, a UPU consultant, Gladys Mutyavaviri, the UPU’s regional co-ordinator for southern and eastern Africa, and Ken Moyo of the Southern Africa Postal Regulators’ Association (SAPRA).

“The postal component of the protocol provides the broad framework for postal sector policy in the region. It therefore provides policy direction to governments in respective SADC member countries,” said Mutyavaviri.

Ministries also pledged to support the use of ICTs to speed up transactions, maintain the postal network’s security and improve financial services. They also agreed to expand services and financial inclusion and establish regular dialogue between postal stakeholders both nationally and internationally.

Changes were also made to existing articles to highlight the fact that Posts play a large role in business development.

“The old protocol was outdated and needed to be revised,” said Mutyavaviri. “The protocol was last updated in 1998 and since then there have been three UPU Congresses [and] a lot of technological development and changes. Posts have been providing the universal service but there [was] nothing about it in the policy framework [until now].”

The revised articles will now be submitted to the SADC Council of Ministers for consideration before being passed to the SADC Summit for Heads of State and Government for final approval and adoption. This process could take several months.

Also during the Gaborone conference, the Southern Africa Postal Regulators Association merged with the Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa. The expanded association will work to implement SADC regulations within the communication sector and harmonise postal and technological regulatory frameworks, according to Mutyavaviri. The merged group will be based in Botswana.

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