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When did you last post or receive a letter?

In Summary

• Digitisation which has amped the use of mobile devices has seen letters sent locally drop 51 per cent over the past 10 years.

• Having dominated the communications for decades, the Postal Corporation of Kenya is now grasping at straws to stay afloat in the age of technology

Posta House in Nairobi's CBD
Posta House in Nairobi's CBD
Image: MONICAH MWANGI

Snail mail is struggling to remain relevant in Kenya at a time when technological advances has left the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) reeling from massive losses.

According to latest data from the  Communications Authority, 56 million letters were posted locally last year down from 115.58 million letters a decade ago, a 51.24 percent drop.

This has largely been driven by digitisation which has amped up the use of mobile devices for calling, texting and social media use as a cheaper, quicker and much more convenient mode of communication.

Last year, Kenyans spent 57.7 billion minutes on calls, 62.52 billion SMS (Short Message Services) were sent while there were 45.71 million internet users accessing different sites including emails and social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to send and receive messages.

Not even banks or service providers like Kenya Power or water firms which previously relied on the postal system to send out statements and bill customers do so. 

Having dominated communications for decades, the PCK is now struggling  to stay afloat in the age of technology and digitisation.

Over the past three years, the parastatal has suffered losses to a tune of Sh3.8 billion.

In September, PCK effected an exemption from Value Added Tax (VAT) to reduce the cost of renting postal boxes.

The move aimed at wooing customers to the struggling firm’s services was part of a proposal in the Finance Bill 2018/19 to exclude postal and subsidiary services the PCK currently offers from the levy.

“The First Schedule to the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 is amended in Part II [for exempt supplies] by adding the following new paragraph…Postal services provided through the supply of postage stamps, including rental of post boxes or mail bags and any subsidiary services thereto,” says the Bill.

Yesterday, PCK announced a partnership with Simpay Limited to sell private letter boxes- physical and virtual- and digitise postal services through its digital platform e-Njiwa. The platform will enable clients to access all postal services without having to visit the post office.

“We have also launched a countrywide training meant to sensitize as well as equip PCK staff with the necessary skill sets to enable them handle customers at the different Postal Outlets and improve service delivery in line with the expansion plan,” postmaster general Dan Kagwe said.

Posta has also launched several other digital avenues including M-Post, Tunza Nyumba na Posta, EMS2Go, Postal Digital Parcel Locker aimed at netting more income.

The corporation is also banking on its new clearing and forwarding division and e-commerce services, amid a plan to partner with global tech giants Alibaba and Amazon, to sustain its workforce and boost the struggling firm's earnings.