After 30 years of turmoil for the postal service in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), letter carriers clad in canary-yellow shirts have finally returned to the streets of the capital.
Anifa Kayumba, head of Kinshasa’s sorting office, recalls “dark times” during her 33 years on the job when dispirited workers would routinely go without pay.
Customers lost all confidence in the service “because [most] of the packages were pilfered or lost,” said Elisabeth Lengema, a postal worker with 26 years of experience. At that time, employees came to work only to “rummage through” the parcels, taking whatever valuables they could find.
The handful of packages that escaped dishonest sorters were delivered to recipients’ homes only after the payment of special “transport costs.”
Today, letter carriers in the capital of 10 million people have once again taken to the city on foot, bicycles and mopeds to deliver the mail.
Despite significant progress, the postal service is for the time being able to handle only post between overseas destinations and Kinshasa; there is not yet a functioning operation outside the capital. A nationwide postal service will come in later.
The DRC’s postal service is far from profitable and is dependent on state funds — mainly fees charged to telecom operators. To grow, the postal service hopes to sign deals with DRC’s water and electricity companies.