22 January 2013

Cameroon: Euphoria of Postal Mail Services Dwindles with ICTs Evolution

Of the over 81,000 boxes that existed in Cameroon, only about 50,000 are still functional till date.

In the yesteryears, people would trek or travel miles to send or receive mails. They would crowd the post offices struggling to send or receive mails from far or near. The situation has changed almost completely. "Instead of waiting to receive customers, we now go to them," an official of the outfit said.

Rapid evolution in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is to blame for the lukewarm attitude now shown postal mails by the population in Cameroon and elsewhere. Telephones now exist where people call or send and receive messages instantly.

There is also the internet with so many options which allow people to converse with others even in the uttermost part of the world. Statistics from CAMPOST show that out of 81,072 postal boxes that exist, barely 59,522 are functional today. Of this number, only 15,067 are owned by individuals "most of whom subscribe because they need to be receiving mails," a source in CAMPOST said. Less than five of the centres were opened in the last seven years.

According to the Service Head for mail activities and postal operations in CAMPOST, Onesime Atchang a Bediang, their customers are mostly groups. "We work with administrations, companies and enterprises now, we no longer wait that they come to us.

We go to them to collect and deliver their mails through our collection and delivery mail service. In the past two or three years, we have made efforts to improve the quality of mail service. For example, we have bought mail vans and bikes to help in the conveyance of mails within big and some small towns.

We have a car that leaves Yaounde everyday at 5:30 am and arrives Douala at 9 am and the mails are distributed the same day to the different mail boxes. It's same for Yaounde-Bafoussam-Bamenda, Yaounde-Ebolowa and Douala-Buea," he said.

At the postal centres either in the central post office in downtown Yaounde, the one below the Supreme Court or at Chateau, there is less effervescence. At the Chateau centre we met two subscribers consulting their boxes.

"I am bound to have a mail box because there are partners abroad who would send or want to receive originals of certain documents that must only be sent through a post office. If not, the phone and internet are there to do the rest," Patrice Tallah said. To the other, Michelle Ntouke, "the originality of the posted mails attracts me to have a post box irrespective of charming evolutions in the ICTs."

Meanwhile a good number of people we randomly spoke to said besides the evolutions that have almost swept postal mail services away, the amateurish behavour of some CAMPOST workers in the yesteryear's who would open peoples' mails also discouraged quite a good number of subscribers. An image the current team of CAMPOST is striving to cleanse.

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