News: How Tech Is Giving People Addresses In Africa


Addresses. Everyone has them, right?

Wrong. According to the United Nations, more than 75 percent of countries have a poorly maintained addressing system or no street addressing system at all. Around the world, 4 billion are unaddressed. In Africa alone, there are 440 million people without a recorded place to call home.

This is a big deal. Without an address, you can’t be reached. You can’t receive goods, and you can’t access many crucial financial services. Lack of addressing is not an issue that can be easily addressed, taking decades to implement and costing millions.

Until now. Tech solutions are helping to overcome these problems. Kenyan startup MPOST converts mobile phone numbers into official virtual addresses, allowing clients to receive notifications whenever they get mail through their postal addresses. After getting the message, they can collect their mail or have it delivered to them. To register, a client just has to dial a USSD code and identify themselves, with a virtual postal address costing $3.

MPOST has already hit the 40,000-user mark after partnering with the Postal Corporation of Kenya and processed over 25,000 parcels and letters.

“The uptake to date has been phenomenal, taking into consideration the registrations to date have just been by word of mouth. MPost has a retention rate of over 85 percent to date,” said Abdulaziz Omar, the company’s CEO.

This is due to the size of the problem that MPOST is tackling through tech. People have been denied the “human right” to their own postal address, Omar said.

“It is tiresome and time-consuming to keep checking mailboxes periodically to find out whether you have received any mail,” he said.
“People were also losing out on important and urgent mails that need immediate response or attention. Job offer letters, for example, might stay at the post office box for too long. For businesses it was also expensive to track and trace customers.”

Written by Tom Jackson

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