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What does the Government plan for SAPO?

Minister Stella Abrahams-Ndabeni was the key note speaker at an event, Digital Drivers, organized by Microsoft and the US Chamber of Commerce at TUCS on 8 Nov which I attended. The conference was very interesting and concentrated mainly on the 4IR. Microsoft has committed to train 1 million Africans in ICT over the next decade. However, the point that caught my attention was the Minister’s reference to SAPO and its future role as a key player in ecommerce deliveries in SA. There is no secret that SAPO would like to play a greater role in ecommerce deliveries. One of Mike Barnes’s first achievements as CEO back in 2016 was to persuade the Universal Postal Union (UPU) to make South Africa the hub for all ecommerce parcels/packages addressed to the SADC countries. However, with Mr Barnes’s resignation in August and the Finance Minister’s tightening of the financial screws on all the Parastatals, the post office has come under more pressure to cut costs and increase business. Traditional letter volumes have been falling for years, and the plan to turn SAPO into a bank have waned, so ecommerce has obviously come back onto the table. Recent announcements are that  SAPO is cutting several hundred jobs in order to slash its costs – it plans to pay voluntary severance packages to about 776 employees at the end of November as part of a phased reorganization. But Labour unions have argued that their members should not have to contend with the fallout of years of mismanagement and alleged graft. This suggests that we may be in for another round of postal strikes. Hardly the time to push SAPO forward as the most favoured ecommerce carrier. The Minister has asked to meet EFSA on this subject: we are awaiting a date. Comments, ideas, and views welcomed (alastair@ecomafrica.org).

 

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Alastair Tempest

Alastair Tempest

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