Letter writing is gradually becoming old fashioned and fortunes from postage stamps are dwindling very fast. Postal administrators in Africa are therefore considering effective ways of generating revenues from the stamp. NGOZI OBOH writes on the moves across the continent to revive stamp collection or philately.
Advancement in technology and emergence of new means of communication has brought intense competition in the global communication market.
This situation means that if the Posts want to remain relevant in the constantly changing market, it must therefore as matter of urgency adapt to the changing environment and seek ways of developing new revenue streams in order to survive.
African postal administrators are thinking a way to create greater public awareness and understanding of the cultural and socio-economic values of postage stamps.
Secretary General of Pan African Postal Union (PAPU), Mrs Roda Masaviru, said the stamp are ambassadors of countries as they portray national heritage, history, values but also speak volumes about the image of a country.
She said the medium of exchange, stamp, is an accessible revenue stream especially through stamp collection.
“There are two major ways in which the stamp earns revenue,” she said. “First, it is the medium of payment. You produce stamp and they are used with letters then we have the collectors. They value the old stamps. Those from 1874s are like gold and they earn as much as thousands of dollars. It is indeed a revenue stream. It is highly developed in the western countries, but still coming up in the African countries that is why this exhibition (Phila-Africa 2012) is being held here in Nigeria as one of the leading countries so that the importance of stamp is disseminated.”
PAPU, according to her, is sensitizing the countries on the need to push forward that role of the stamp and the need to pass it over to our youth.
Masaviru said countries need to ensure that postage development programmes are priority in national development plan disclosing that Nigeria and Namibia are taking the lead in philatelic services in Africa.
Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, acceded that all over the world, postage stamps are regarded as one of the most effective means of supplying information about a country’s history, its people and culture.
Johnson said: “Postage stamps are often described as miniature encyclopedia and living reminders of important events. Most countries today use postage stamps to immortalize the illustrious citizens and publicize their accomplishments.”
The minister therefore called African postal administrations to carry out in-depth research on how they can use postage stamps to highlight the heroic achievements of Africans and those in the diaspora.
The posts will earn more revenue if it incorporate new technologies into its operations, according to Johnson.
Post Master General of the Federation, Ibrahim Mori Baba therefore said the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) was repositioning the service for profitability especially through philately.
“The best we can do is to continue to make the environment attractive. If the post office is good it will bring more revenue.”
General Manager of the Nigerian Philatelic Service, Femi Durosomo, hinted on how Nigerians can make economic gains from the postage stamps.
According to Durosomo, the philately has the hobby and the revenue aspects.
“The revenue aspect is through stamp collection. Stamps are either commemorative or definitive. Sometimes we also issue special stamps. The definitive are issued purposely for posting letters, so that can be used for five years but for commemorative, after six months or one year you may not see them again at the philatelic service. So, this stamp that you bought when they are selling it for N50 naira immediately will appreciate because every day, more people are joining stamp collection.”
Collectors who invest in postage stamp do it in readiness for competitions. Every year, there are international stamp exhibitions across the world and there are themes for each exhibition. Some may want to exhibit some particular topics like birds of Africa. A stamp with bird from Africa issued in 1975, for example will attract higher income.
“Apart from that, philately is a global hobby. You can put postage stamp in a pocket travel to United States of America and the moment the stamp collectors there are able to identify you, then you can make money for yourself. They might be looking for Nigerian stamp on a particular topic. There are stamp collectors and dealers’ clubs, societies, that one can link up to,” he said.
The amount of money to be made annually depends on ones target but is always advisable to get the stamp when it is in circulation.
He said a single postage stamp can be sold for up to N1 million depending on its rarity, disclosing that one of the stamps exhibited at the Phila Africa 2012 event was sold at N123,000 over 20 years and is now valued in millions of naira.
Durosomo added there was need to create more awareness on what Nigerians can gain from postage stamp collection, noting that in the advanced societies, the only thing some children inherit from their parents is stamp album. Some sell the album and use the money if they are not interested in continuing with the hobby.
Apart from Nigeria, other countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe among others are also exploring revenue generation possibilities of the postage stamp.
“From the point of view of Posta Uganda which is the government postal service of Uganda, we believe that at this point in time when the writing of letters have gone down and use of stamps on letters has gone down. What the modern world has done is to bring up the other usage of stamp,” said Lucia Eilor, Manager Stamps and Philately at Posta Uganda.
She added that their stamp collection revenue comes from international market, from international collectors who sign up with them so that whenever they issue a new stamp, they will export to these collectors to buy and they earn foreign currencies. Their projection is an annual earnings of 300, 000 million Uganda shillings.
Executive Officer, postal services at Potraz, Zimbabwe, Magwaza Justin, said that although inadequate funding was stalling postal operation, the company is making a lot of inquiries from oversea collectors.
“These are people who are interested in our issues and we are in contact with them. We expect improvement.”
But while some countries are smiling to the banks with fortunes from postage stamp collections, others are licking wounds inflicted by scammers.
Head, Communication Cooperation and Marketing at PAPU, Dickson Payori, stated that abusive issues of stamp has been a huge concern to PAPU and the Universal Postal Union.
How the scammers operate is that they usually target countries that have been involved in civil strife where there is no proper planning in production of stamps so they take advantage of that loophole to use the internet to produce stamps in the name of the country.
“According to the statistics we have, not less ten African countries are affected by this and it is costing them a lot in terms of loss of revenue and also dented national image. It is estimated that Africa is losing up to $500 million per year through their activities.”
How it happens is that there are crooks within the international philately community who pose as genuine stamp dealers. They get images that are related to African countries, images of western idols which sometimes are abusive and collectors who have no information collect and buy those stamps online.
PAPU has therefore advised its member countries to be wary of the reputation of postal agencies they deal with and to also control the entire value chain from planning to production, issuance and distribution of stamps.