Mark Barnes is the new chief executive of the South African Post Office. (Image courtesy of Finweek)
Johannesburg - Tapping e-commerce, ramping up banking services and regaining trust are key reasons why banker Mark Barnes was hired as the South African Post Office (Sapo) CEO.
This is according to the minister of telecommunications and postal services Siyabonga Cwele in an interview with Fin24 along the sidelines of a Telkom roundtable discussion in Sandton on Thursday.
Barnes, who remains involved at investing and trading solutions company Purple Group, was previously an investment banker at Standard Corporate and Merchant Bank (SCMB). He was also former head of private equity firm Brait.
Last month, Cabinet approved Barnes’ appointment as CEO of Sapo - a role that will begin on January 15. Barnes’ appointment at Sapo has come amid leadership instability and financial hardship at the state-owned company.
And Minister Cwele explained why Barnes was chosen for the role.
“His main purpose is to grow the Post Office business,” Cwele said.
"That's the brief he's got from us. That's the commitment he's showing, that's why we selected him,” said Cwele.
Getting e-commerce players to use the Post Office will be a key objective for Barnes especially as revenues for mail - which make up 60% of Sapo’s income streams - are decreasing, said Cwele.
"We are looking at e-commerce businesses; we are looking at ensuring that we digitise the Post Office so that we can run these e-commerce businesses,” said Cwele.
"Because when you talk about the e-businesses, e-commerce, and other e-businesses, his vision is to do partnerships with major online shops like Amazon and Alibaba,” said Cwele.
Government also wants the Post Bank to go “beyond just being a mere deposit institution to be a bank which can lend money, particularly to small entrepreneurs in those marginalised areas who don't have access to any particular funding”, said Cwele.
The minister further said that consultations have been happening with the Reserve Bank to make sure that the Post Bank complies with the country’s banking regulations.
Cwele added that his department is also looking for authority from the Reserve Bank to form a company called the Sapo Post Bank Limited.
He said the finances of the Post Bank are healthy, despite problems at the Post Office, because these finances have been ring-fenced.
"We have to finalise that programme of the Post Bank. It helps when you have a person who has a banking background,” Cwele said.
He said Barnes' appointment is intended to boost trust in the institution which has developed a reputation for struggling to deliver adequate postal services.
"He (Barnes) is very passionate, he's a South African who's very passionate about seeing this institution succeed. He believes that the Post Office will grow. It's difficult if you take a person who doesn't really believe,” said Cwele.
"If he believes, then he can help to reduce the trust deficit from the public. The public may also believe now that the Post Office can do what it will say it can do.
"That's what we have to bring back, that trust again and that's the reason really why we chose Mark Barnes,” Cwele said.