"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


p's and queues

Removing the most senior members of Kenya's police force is a very important step on the way to the security sector and anti-corruption reform that are desparatly needed in the country. But here's betting that receiving a package at Nairobi's central post office just got a whole lot harder than it already was.* Then again, maybe Major General Ali's experience is just what's needed in a bureaucracy that's currently out of post office boxes.** But I doubt it.

*For those of you who've never had the pleasure, the approximate way receiving a package via the postal service in Kenya "works":
  1. You get a slip in your mailbox in your area post office indicating that you've received a package.
  2. You go to the central post office downtown and show them your slip.
  3. And your passport.
  4. After waiting in a very long and slow line.
  5. Then you get in another line and wait.
  6. Until someone retrieves your package.
  7. Which you take to another line.
  8. Where they watch carefully while you open your package.
  9. And then a customs officer calculates how much duty you'll have to pay to be allowed to bring the goods in the package out of the post office.
  10. But keeps the package.
  11. While you get in another line.
  12. To pay those fees.
  13. Then return to retrieve your package.
It's a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Then again, it's been awhile and I may have misremembered a few things in my attempts to forget the whole experience. Kenya-based readers, does the system still work this way?

**At least that's what I hear on this side of the pond. Can anyone independently confirm this?


Blogger Tauratinswe said...

That's a lot like it used to be in Tanzania. It Zimbabwe it got a bit crazier. You got a notice and then had to go to the customs office, open the package, pay, and then go home and wait for it to go to the post office. Once it was there, they'd send a package slip and then you could go and stand in line to retrieve the package.

A lot more ques than p's.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 6:41:00 AM

Blogger Nina said...

In Ghana, not so dissimilar, though the queues aren't long, and any photo ID will do. But sometimes one is lucky and small-ish parcels just get delivered straight to one's postal box!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 10:27:00 AM

Anonymous Jon Custer said...

Turkmenistan has a lot to learn from Kenya! In our regional post office, you could only send a package on a certain day of the week (Wednesday, I think) and it had to be sewn up, with a needle and thread, in some special fabric. And rather than charge a customs duty, they would just steal random items out of the incoming packages. Since T-stan has no connection to the international banking system, people would try to cleverly hide small-denomination cash in photo albums, tampon boxes, etc. They also read all our mail -- you could tell because they would re-seal the envelope with cute little stickers like children put on their notebooks. We also once received a nine-year-old package containing, among other things, Pop-Tarts, which someone actually ate...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 12:48:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

No different in Senegal, sadly. I remember getting a package with three magazines and a sunglasses case (no sunglasses in it mind you) and had to pay more in duties than my mom had paid to buy the magazines or ship them to me! And it took four hours!

Thursday, September 10, 2009 5:11:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I have got to get to Turkmenistan. Wow. And may I add, wow.

Lauren, that's exactly what happened to me. I had to email my best friend to say, "Um, please don't send me any more care packages."

Friday, September 11, 2009 11:26:00 PM


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