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Kenya's Safaricom starts digital post services in e-commerce push

Credit: REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA

Kenya's biggest telecoms operator Safaricom has started a digital postal service that will use mobile phone numbers like the traditional post office box addresses, it said on Friday.

By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Kenya's biggest telecoms operator Safaricom SCOM.NR has started a digital postal service that will use mobile phone numbers like the traditional post office box addresses, it said on Friday.

The company, which is part-owned by South Africa's Vodacom VODJ.J, targets 5 million new users of the service as it ramps up infrastructure for its fledgling electronic commerce business.

Dubbed MPost, the service will be offered jointly with the Postal Corporation of Kenya, which will rent out physical post office boxes to Safaricom customers using their mobile phone numbers, at a quarter of the going rate for conventional boxes.

Customers who opt to have their parcels delivered to their doors will have to pay extra, Safaricom said.

"At the touch of a button, MPost provides anyone in the country with a virtual post office box and can easily receive parcels and letters," Joe Mucheru, the minister for information and communication, said at the launch of the service.

Safaricom, which also counts Britain's Vodafone VOD.L and the Kenyan government as key shareholders, has evolved into a platform company, offering mobile financial services via M-Pesa as well other services.

Its attempt to break into the growing e-commerce business, which is dominated by companies such as Jumia Technologies 4JMAy.F, has, however, been more slow than expected.

Its e-commerce platform, Masoko, which was launched in 2017 needed further investments and a potential relaunch, Safaricom said earlier this year, without elaborating.

"Kenya's economy is increasingly digitising, leading to the growth of online delivery of goods and services," said Safaricom acting CEO Michael Joseph during the launch of MPost.

Safaricom's more than 30 million users will access services from 625 postal outlets across the country, said Post Master General Dan Kagwe, adding that the postal service was adapting to meet customer demand in the digital world.

Users will be notified though a short message that their mail has arrived, allowing them go pick it up from the counter, Safaricom and the Postal Corporation said.

(Editing by Jason Neely)

((duncan.miriri@thomsonreuters.com; Tel: +254 20 4991239; Reuters Messaging: duncan.miriri.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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