In my last article, I was leaving you with a “saving the planet” call for all key e-commerce delivery stakeholders under the auspices of a new UPU. Today, the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that uniting all postal and logistics companies with this noble common goal must be immediately secured should we really deliver a future to our children. But for this purpose, our children need education and development at the first place.
Jack Ma’s applications to prestigious universities and institutions were rejected many times. Harvard rejected him ten times if I remember well. This did not prevent him from persevering on its way to success. Perseverance is often the driver of true fundamental changes for development. Nobel prizes are often awarded to talented individuals that truly persevered in their obsession to solve a problem. Unfortunately, some people and institutions do exactly the opposite: persevering in not solving a problem and keeping the status-quo instead. The UPU has been one of them.
In terms of development, the UPU has been persevering in funding it, with little or no results, by maintaining a highly economically distorted system of international postal rates, the increasingly “renown” terminal dues system. Subsidizing postal rates paid by developing countries for sending mails and packets abroad was meant to allow access to international postal communication by the most economically and socially vulnerable populations. The sad reality is that the most vulnerable of all, namely in Africa, were cut from postal communication by the establishment of prohibitive rates for receiving mail instead.
In too many cases, you still have to rent a very expensive P.O. box for receiving mail, and small packets, in most Sub-Saharan African countries today. No surprise the poor preferred cheaper mobile phones as soon as they became widely available, and free reception of calls and electronic messages, to unaffordable postal reception channels.
Jack Ma, one of the first proponents of free delivery for the recipients of his platform products, is still asking himself what levels of extraordinary delivery convenience this expensive African P.O. boxes provide their recipients with? Are they digitally connected? Are they smart? Are they talking to the recipient? Are they personalized? Are they accessible by delivery drones? Are they flying themselves? And what’s their address? Can all recipients easily know where they are located?
They have none of these highly desirable features in spite a 50-year of UPU subsidies and terminal dues discussions and negotiations. They are not even close to move to any of these “futuristic” features. Yes… there are exceptions and recent fascinating innovations particularly in the addressing area. However, I would like to stress that we are not talking about a decade of subsidies here! One would have expected so much more after “supporting” several generations of senders and recipients of mail, at least in terms of readiness to move towards the next delivery model. The humble lesson for UPU 2.0, should Trump save it, is clear regarding what does lead to little or no development progress when rethinking the way of funding a badly needed leapfrog of postal networks in most developing regions of the world. They are in urgent need for new paths to relevance in the 21st century.
The international postal crisis will hopefully unleash a revolution for postal development. And Jack Ma certainly has new insights to share with us in my next article! We’ll keep you posted.