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Ministry promises SAPO e-commerce site in ‘next few months’

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The South African Post Office’s (SAPO’s) long-awaited e-commerce platform will launch within the “next few months”.

This was revealed by communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, during her department’s commemoration of World Post Day on Friday.

SAPO’s e-commerce platform has been a long time in the making, and was first tabled by former minister Siyabonga Cwele in 2018.

Through the platform, SAPO aims to expand its role in e-commerce by facilitating interaction between small craftsmen and traders in South Africa and buyers. It is also looking to the platform as one of the measures to return to profit.

In April, post office CIO Refilwe Kekana revealed to ITWeb that the platform would “definitely” launch at the end of May. However, it appears the launch stalled, with no specific launch date since then.

In a statement, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) says SAPO is currently repositioning its e-commerce strategy to be a driver of global exports and to enhance intra-African trade under the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement, while engineering local trade.

“The postal system worldwide is a vital partner for e-commerce, usually offering the most cost-effective delivery option, given its extensive presence,” says DCDT. “To that end, and as part of its role in growing the economy and creating the much-needed jobs, the SA Post Office has reduced the backlog of international items ordered online to around three weeks and hopes to have the backlog eradicated within the next month.”

The ministry also revealed that before the COVID-19 lockdown, the post office delivered around two million items per day, and is expected to grow as the economy normalises and ticks up again in the future.

This, it says, is a strong indication of the critical role the post office still plays, but most importantly, its central role in growing the economy.

“Given its massive and extensive infrastructure and presence in almost all corners of the country, including the rural areas, there is growing need for government to make use of the SA Post Office to enhance the delivery of people-centred services. And those discussions are positively under way. This will go a long way in assisting the post office to be financially sustainable,” says Ndabeni-Abrahams.

SAPO’s plan for the immediate future is to introduce new features that include driver’s licence renewals, and applications for ID books and passports at branches, according to the department.

This is to ensure the DCDT and government achieve their objectives of building a digitally connected society, it states.

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