Quaker Witness in Africa

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Friends who wish to support the various programs in Africa are inevitably confronted with the problem of how to get assistance to the program selected. This section is intended to help Friends and other supporters find the most effective and efficient way to get money or materials to Africa.

Shipping goods and supplies to the various countries in Africa can be a challenge. Experience suggests that the U.S. Postal Service is the carrier of choice for most items. The varying rates are based on speed of delivery and the sender’s desire for either insurance or confirmation of delivery.

Published materials are among the most common items sent abroad. Media Mail (M-bags)
are the lowest cost option, running at slightly over a dollar a pound to the various African countries. The rules for Media Mail are as follows:
  • Books must be packed in boxes, and no box can exceed 20 pounds.
  • Boxes must be free of all markings or wrapped.
  • Each box in an M-bag must have the same address.
  • The M-bag tag must have the same address.
  • A customs declaration is needed for each bag–not each box in the bag.
The Postal Service has replaced the old canvas bags which permitted up to 60 pounds being sent in each bag. The new bags are clear plastic, and seem to hold closer to 35-40 pounds. Boxes should be full, so need to be filled with filler or cut down to size (a better approach in light of the new smaller plastic bags. Postal personnel will supply you with M-bag tags and customs stickers so that you can prepare them before coming to the Post Office.

Private carriers, UPS, Airborne Express, etc. may or may not take your parcel to its final
destination within a country. UPS, for example, recently took goods to Nairobi, Kenya but a local carrier was a required to take them to Kaimosi (220 miles away). In this situation, the recipient was expected to pay the additional charge of almost 8% of the value of the donated goods. Given that the recipients may not have the funds to do this, this is a problem. Therefore, it is best to get a written confirmation that goods will be sent to the final point of destination before they leave the States.

If a product is available locally, it is generally better to send funds to purchase the product
locally. Friends are advised to NEVER SEND PERSONAL CHECKS, which can be used as a basis for unscrupulous processors to create copies and write checks against your account. Funds should be sent by wire or by bank checks. Funds should only be sent to programs which are known to the donor or which are administered in such a way as to ensure proper usage. See, Guidelines on Giving.


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