Post Office surface mail
  • The South African Post Office is dropping standard surface mail to most African countries, including some neighbouring ones, according to a pricing notice.
  • That means South Africans will be able to send parcels to large swathes of the continent only by way of more expensive air mail.
  • At the top end, sending a 1kg package to Nigeria will be 76.1% more expensive.

This article has been updated below.

The South African Post Office (Sapo) is discontinuing surface mail services to most of the rest of the African continent, a pricing regulation notice published on Monday shows.

The vast majority of the continent – including some neighbouring countries – will now be accessible only via the more expensive air mail.

Surface mail will be available only to Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, and eSwatini (previously Swaziland). And that means big price increases for parcels sent to other countries, such as a 76.1% increase for sending a one-kilogram parcel to Nigeria.

Surface mail is still available to destinations such as Israel, Great Britain, and China, at rates lower than those charged for air mail.

The discontinuation of surface mail to most African countries is disclosed in a small note in a notice on the increase of postal rates gazetted by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on Monday. The notice increases the price of stamps, registered letters, and other services on which the Post Office has a monopoly by around 8.3% with effect from April.

But those who will now have to send packages to most African destinations at the Post Office's "large parcel rate" by air rather than by surface mail will see much larger increases – albeit for a theoretically faster service.

Sending a one kilogram package to Zimbabwe will now cost R315.40, an increase of 17.5% over the pervious surface mail price.

A one-kilogram package to Namibia or Botswana will cost R221.80 by air mail, an increase of 31.6% over the previous surface mail price. 

And a one-kilogram package to Nigeria will cost R489.90 to send – an increase of 76.1% on the R275.40 price previously.

The Post Office confirmed the "new arrangement" for African mail late on Tuesday afternoon.*

"Road transport to other African countries has not proved reliable enough to ensure a consistent postal service," the Post Office said in response to questions from Business Insider South Africa. "In the recent past, the SA Post Office had no option but to use air mail only for mail dispatch into Africa."

* This article was updated after a response to questions was received from the Post Office.

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