A humble beginning
The Postal history in Kenya dates from the early years of the 17th century. A Portuguese governor was installed in Mombasa in 1592 and official correspondence between the town and the outside world has been recorded from 1610 onwards, carried by ship to Arabia and India and transmitted to Europe by the overland route. Early letters from the interior of Kenya date from about 1848 when the missionaries sent their correspondence by native runners to the Coast for onward transmission.
By 1877 some letters from Coast were being taken north from Lamu to Aden by ships of the British Steam Navigation Company, although the bulk of mail was being transmitted via Zanzibar. A system of mail-runners was developed and expanded by the British East Africa Association, while individual traders and concessionaries organized their own service. That enjoyed the use of distinctive postage stamps in 1889-90.
A regular postal service in British East Africa was introduced in May 1890 and post offices opened in Mombasa and the island of Lamu. Two years later offices were opened at Malindi and Wasini and by 1897 an office was to open at Kilindini,necessitated by the construction of the railway. On 1st July 1895 control of the territory in British East Africa was transferred from the company to the imperial government. The Postmaster of Mombasa was responsible for running the postal service in the territory and in 1901 the Postal Services of British East Africa and Uganda were amalgamated.
Early Postal Development
Postal services at the beginning of the last century had developed rapidly compared with the 1890s, mainly as a result of the construction of the Uganda railway. In 1895, for instance, mail took a fortnight to cover the 394 km between Mombasa and Machakos; ten years later from Mombasa to Nairobi (426 km) it took 28 hours.
Although the railway greatly facilitated the carriage of mail, runners were still employed, while the steamer “Juba” served a number of places on the Coast. In the early years of the last century fewer than 30 post offices, as well as a number of postal agencies existed in the East Africa protectorate at one time or another, although they were not all open at the same time and several of them were short-lived. The post offices in Kenya at this time included; Baringo, Eldama Ravine, Karungu, Kikuyu, Kilindini, Lamu, Machakos, Makindu, Muhoroni, Mombasa, Malindi, Mumias, Nandi, Nairobi, Naivasha, Nakuru, Rabai, Takaungu, Taveta, Voi, Wasini and Port Ugowe (now Kisumu).
An East African Postal Service
On 1st July 1933 a Postal Union of the three East African territories came into operation and was further strengthened by the East African Customs and Postal Union formally introduced on 1st May 1935. Although the East African countries became independent sovereign states between 1961 and 1963, they continued cooperating closely with one another in a number of ways, not the least being their common postal services which culminated into the formation of East African Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (EAP&T) under the Treaty for East African Cooperation which came into effect on 1st December 1967. In 1977, due to the break up of the East African Community, the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KP&TC) was established. In the EAP&TC and KP&TC eras postal services were provided under a department of the larger Corporations.
Establishment of PCK
Due to emerging market and economic trends and spearheaded by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), efforts to separate postal services from those of Telecommunications were initiated in the late 1980s. They bore fruit in Kenya and in July 1999, the KP&TC was split to create, among others, the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) whose mandate under the Postal Corporation Act of 1998 is to provide and operate postal services, postal financial services, and perform other functions and duties as the minister of communications may assign.
In pursuit of this mandate, PCK operates a network of 31 Head Post offices 472 departmental postal outlets and 204 postal agencies (sub-post offices). The population served per post office is 55,630. This is against a universal standard of 6,000 persons per post office. This network is served by a staff complement of 4,114 as at June 2009. Among the products and services of PCK are; letter post, parcels, Expedited Mail Services (EMS), Philately, Postal Financial Services (Money Orders and Postal Orders), Agency Services (Third party payments and receipts) and technology based money transfer services. Those planned for introduction are postal savings service, postal giro services and hybrid mail.
The Post in Kenya currently cooperates with other postal administrations within East Africa in the provision of Postal Money Transfers through the UPU’s electronic International Financial System (IFS).
It also has the International Postal System (IPS) that enables track and trace facilities for mail and EMS within UPU member countries. A number of neighbouring postal administrations use Nairobi as their transit point for international mail. Postal Corporation of Kenya in this connection has plans of putting up a modern International Mails Transit Centre at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi.