How South Africa’s postal system ranks vs the rest of the world

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has published its annual postal development ranking, listing the countries with the best postal systems worldwide.

The ranking is based on postal performance across 168 countries using big data and other statistics collected by the UPU.

In compiling the index, the UPU gauges the reliability, reach, relevance and resilience of global postal systems, with a particular focus on domestic mail delivery times.

This year’s report showed an encouraging rebound in postal delivery times compared to 2020 – the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – with much of the growth due to opportunities within the e-commerce sector.

However, it revealed deepening disparities in postal development – an annual warning that the pandemic has only exacerbated.

The main finding of the index is that, globally, the logistical bottlenecks experienced in 2020 severely affected the reliability of postal operations, with average domestic delivery times increasing by 13% in 2020 with respect to 2019, before returning to pre-crisis levels in 2021.

The results of the report also suggest that, even if disruptions in global supply chains are eventually absorbed, gaps in postal development are likely to remain a considerable challenge for the sector in the coming years.

“Despite its essential nature, the sector had already been facing tremendous challenges before the pandemic. Postal operators were struggling to make their revenues grow at the same rate as the wider real economy, while postal services in many developing countries were increasingly falling behind when compared to the performance in wealthier nations,” the UPU said.

“In 2021, delivery times appear to have reverted to pre-crisis levels; but more time will be needed before declaring a ‘return to normal’. Moreover, even if the deterioration of reliability through the crisis is eventually overcome, the issue of gaps in postal development is likely to remain high on the agenda of policymakers, regulators and operators in the years to come.”

Switzerland placed first in this year’s ranking, with Germany ranking second and Austria in third. Belarus, Brazil, Ghana, Singapore and Tunisia were also recognised for standout performance in their respective regions.

South Africa 

The African continent stands apart in the global rankings, with an average regional score of just 17.9, the lowest since the creation of the ranking.

At 63%, dispersion around the mean is the highest of all the areas tracked, with ranks ranging from 53rd to 167th.

“Ghana holds the top spot, thanks to very good reliability, improved reach and a level of resilience moving closer to the global average,” the UPU said. “Zambia, Namibia and Liberia have made the largest relative gains, moving up by 34, 31 and 26 places, respectively.”

By comparison, South Africa has slipped further down the ranking, with the country now placed 73rd with a score of 34.14. This puts it behind peers such as Nigeria (68th) but slightly ahead of Kenya (75th) and Ethiopia (78th).

Overall, domestic delivery times increased by 16% in African nations.

Changes on the cards

While the South African Post Office capabilities have significantly deteriorated over the last two decades, group chief executive Nomkhita Mona has pledged to restore the service and help modernise it.

“At the South Africa Post Office, we have adopted a culture of being obsessed with the customer,” said Mona in a statement on Tuesday (12 October). “Our customers include the most vulnerable members of society. It is our duty to ensure that our customers receive service of the highest integrity.”

Mona said the post office plans to reduce postal crimes significantly, and it has launched a wide-ranging campaign to reduce crime related to anything postal. As part of this campaign, the organisation has requested customers, employees and members of the public to report postal crimes they become aware of, she said.

“Behaviour that should be reported include bribes requested on Post Office premises, robberies and burglaries at Post Office facilities, or mail violation.

“Instances have occurred where self-appointed queue marshals ask bribes from members of the public in exchange for a place at the front of the queue. These self-appointed queue marshals are acting illegally, and the South African Post Office does not condone their actions.”


Read: 5 changes coming to post offices in South Africa – including car licence renewals via mobile app

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How South Africa’s postal system ranks vs the rest of the world