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ICT Minister opens Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) 2021 conference

Jenfan Muswere PAPU Conference 2021

Minister for ICT, Postal and Courier Services Dr Jenfan Muswere yesterday opened the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) Plenipotentiary Conference which Zimbabwe is hosting at the Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls.

Here is the Minister’s opening address:

It is my singular honour and pleasure to officiate at this momentous occasion, the meeting of the 2021 PAPU Plenipotentiary Conference and especially this meeting of the 39th Ordinary Session of the PAPU Administrative Council. Allow me to solemnly say to you, on behalf of Government of The Republic of Zimbabwe, the Postal industry and on my own behalf, you have earned our full admiration and respect for coming here against all the odds that come with the COVID-19 pandemic. You are all welcome to our beautiful town of Victoria Falls. Local organizers of this event and PAPU leadership thank you so much for working hard to ensure that this gathering becomes a reality.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Covid-19 pandemic has put pressure on international postal supply chains to unprecedented levels. Cross-border exchanges, for example, decreased by 21% between 23 January 2020 and 14 May 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. As supply chains have been strongly disrupted worldwide, the weakest links of the postal network have been exposed and that should be taken as a blessing in disguise. This therefore calls for us especially the working committees, the Administrative Council included to put our heads together and come up with lasting solutions so that the Post continues to be relevant even after the pandemic. Designated operators working together with respective governments should put more effort on revolutionizing the whole postal sector.

The UPU, ladies and gentlemen, has never left us as PAPU or as individual governments to do it alone. The umbrella body is always working with us to ensure that the Post remains relevant. Our sister country, Ivory Coast, is tipped to become the e-commerce hub for West Africa through the “ecom@africa” project being funded by Universal Postal Union (UPU). It is up to us to initiate such developmental projects in our countries and the UPU will never leave us alone when we meet challenges along the way.

The ecom@Africa project as an initiative of the UPU aims to accelerate the development of e-commerce through the postal network. This project includes, among other things, the construction of a national express logistics centre in the airport area. This move reflects the UPU’s determination to position the postal network as one of the main catalysts for e-commerce in Africa, based on an integrated, inclusive and innovative ecosystem composed of designated postal operators. With this support and encouragement, ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt that the Post in Africa will eventually equate the Swiss Post, Austria and Germany which were ranked top by The Universe of Data Statistics in 2020 as the most efficient postal services.

I want to challenge our Administrative Council to continue working to improve the Post here in Africa taking advantage of this support and also the Guides that are continuously being published by the UPU. The UPU Guide on Postal Social Services, for example, is really something to embrace and I am impressed that some of us are already partakers of this. Many of the services detailed in this Guide directly support progress towards achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably those relating to poverty reduction (SDG 1) and equality (SDG 10).

Ladies and gentlemen, it is also crucial to note that some of these social services generate direct revenue for the Post, while others present an opportunity to implement their corporate social responsibility commitments or to improve visibility and brand recognition which are very important in today’s business environment. Once the Post portfolio is expanded into these social services that vary from education, health to mention but a few, the consumers will have their lives improved and this will translate into increased customer base and greater customer loyalty. This will not end there as there will be a possibility of more opportunities for the cross-selling of postal services. The chain will go on and on thus revealing the relevance of the Post in today’s world of business.

Ladies and gentlemen allow me to commend the Administrative Council for encouraging members, Zimbabwe included to implement the Customs Declaration System (CDS). CDS is an interoperable customs declaration system, which allows EDI CUSITM and CUSRSP messages to be exchanged between Customs and designated operators so that customs formalities can be completed prior to the arrival of postal items. The system has many benefits that include, reduction of handling times and increased throughput, improved communication between designated operators and Customs, framework for security alerts and support integration with e-commerce systems. Ladies and gentlemen this is a clear indication that work is being done and that the post is getting into business in accordance with the dictates of the new world dispensation.

I will also, ladies and gentlemen, applaud the AC for the good work produced by its legal team led by Zimbabwe in coming up with amendments to the PAPU statutes. The amendments such as, increasing the number of AC members from 20 to 25, empowering the AC on its own volition to convene an extra-ordinary session and expanding the functions of AC for better oversight and coordination. These amendments are forward looking as they compel the organ to ensure diversification of the post.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to lastly commend the PAPU secretariat for successfully hosting online meetings that started on the 7th June 2021. It was very difficult for us to convene for more than two weeks given the restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will not take much of your time for I am aware of the packed programme ahead of us. This is an Elective Plenipotentiary Conference. Ensure that all the papers and names of candidates are well placed for purposes of smooth running of the elections.

Once again, I welcome you all to this conference taking place in this resort town of Victoria Falls – A world of wonders.

May all our deliberations be fruitful and transformative.

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