You've Got Mail. And More.
June 13, 2018
Arab postal services are finding new ways of connecting people to each other—and to the state—as they reinvent themselves as providers of digital and financial solutions.
Rural Tunisians are on the technological cutting edge because of an unlikely source: the post office. Long a source of basic financial services, Tunisia Post also offers sophisticated mobile banking platforms, an advanced ability to make and receive payments from a phone, and has even piloted a blockchain-powered digital currency.
Across the Arab world, state-run postal systems conjure images of creaky bureaucracy. Mail delivery is often sporadic and unreliable. Yet, Arab postal services are finding new ways of connecting people to each other—and to the state—as they reinvent themselves as providers of digital and financial solutions.
In 15 out of 24 governorates in Tunisia, there are more post offices than banks. Many customers without bank accounts find the post office an accessible first step for basic financial services. And it’s not just Tunisia. Morocco introduced a postal bank in 2010 that had nearly six million customers—making up one in three bank accounts—within four years. Egypt is also modernizing the financial products offered by post offices. But Tunisia seems to be the clear leader, creating strategic partnerships with all three mobile phone operators in the country and moving a range of banking services from branches into users’ pockets.
Many of the region’s postal networks are accelerating the digitization of their financial and administrative services. Postal networks are partnering with private sector and logistics partners to develop digital solutions that include not only individual banking, but also banking and e-commerce support for entrepreneurs.
Future Tunisians may not know what a post office used to do, but they are even more likely to be regular customers.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.