Post office’s e-commerce hub targets SMEs

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The South African Post Office’s (SAPO’s) e-commerce platform is “well-advanced” and will be launching “very soon”.

So said SAPO chairperson Colleen Makhubele, during a media briefing convened by the post office’s new board at the GCIS Ronnie Mamoepa Media Centre, in Pretoria, this morning.

Makhubele painted a bleak picture of the state of affairs of the national postal service, noting the e-commerce platform is one of the revenue-generating areas identified by the organisation.

She indicated SAPO has been losing money for the past decade, and foresees further losses of R1 billion this financial year.

The chairperson revealed the post office has partnered with the Universal Postal Union for an e-commerce platform that integrates with the systems of other postal administration.

Egypt will be the northern hub of Africa, Kenya the east African hub, Ghana the west African hub, with SA identified as the hub for the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region, she noted.

“We plan for the platform to serve as a springboard for our local SMMEs in South Africa, which will help them showcase and sell their products and services throughout Africa and the world.

“The post office will be their natural logistics partner,” she said.

Makhubele explained that a manufacturer from Giyani or a seamstress from Northern Cape, for example, will be able to go onto the post office’s platform, post their goods on the platform free of charge, and a person in New York will be to place an order for the product via the e-commerce platform.

“SAPO, being a licensed financial services provider, can finance the product and assist the entrepreneur to fulfil the order and also ensure the entire transaction through the local private partnerships that we are embarking on is financed and insured properly, and delivered to the right place at the right time.

“The local logistics entrepreneurs will be registered through our post office and we call on them to talk to us because we want to bring them on board, to assist us on the house-to-house pickups and deliveries in the local and remote areas.

“We’ll also be partnering with other courier companies that have an established presence in complementary areas.

“We have also enlisted a number of local businesses that will offer unique South African items as part of our proof of concept. SAPO is already active in the e-commerce field as a logistics fulfilment company – we import up to 80 000 items per day from abroad and through our local postal system.”

Makhubele highlighted the online shopping platform will focus on six types of e-commerce areas: business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer, consumer-to-business, business-to-administration and administration-to-administration.

“All these represent the different purchasing and contracting dynamics that we are working through. We are planning to have a soft launch during our SADC e-commerce forum that SAPO will be hosting from 9 to 13 March at the Sandton Convention Centre.

“Our logistics side of e-commerce is sound with the introduction of door-to-door; we have integrated our transport system for logistics and international deliveries.

“Through e-commerce, the post office can enable entrepreneurs in rural areas to access domestic, regional and international markets. We facilitate economic activities and trade in rural areas through this platform.

“The South African Post Office will be recognised for providing South Africa with an integrated platform, which effectively facilitates the movement of money, data and goods,” she concluded.

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