Pan-African Postal Union

Liberia (or rather Stamperija) seems recently to have opted for a burst of commemorative themes that are more Liberia-related than usual (or at least, more than cricket, Bruce Lee or Frank Zappa), with the Liberia Bicentennial series, the President, Vice-President and First Lady, and now celebration of the inauguration of the “PAPU Tower” in Arusha (Tanzania) for the Pan-African Postal Union.

To echo Bryant Korn’s words in a 2020 LPS Journal, “And since everyone loves a pygmy hippo, who needs a better reason!”;(1) let’s celebrate. The PAPU stamps are a multi-country series, appropriately enough, and “Being an African Joint Stamp Issue, all member states of the union are required to incorporate into the design, an iconic emblem or national natural artefact of their choice in their respective countries.”(2) Thus Nigeria (not a Stamperija client) has a semi-postal N255 commemorative stamp (N250 in value with a surcharge of N5) that depicts the Zuma Rock: for Liberia, the rule means the national flag and a rare reappearance of Coat of Arms, and a pygmy hippo. (There are also designs with a secretary bird, a chameleon, and a butterfly).

Stamperija also show PAPU stamps so far for Burundi, the CAR, Niger, and Sierra Leone.

This highlights so much of a turnaround for Liberia. Aside from a non-functioning mail system, it was Liberia’s failure to pay its postal costs for the previous decade that resulted in international airlines, the UPU and the PAPU, among others, imposing an embargo on mail entering and leaving Liberia from June 2002.(3) Even in 2016, when the Government of Liberia had paid to the UPU USD4.3 million arrears, they were still negotiating a debt-interest waiver and lower indexation of fees, and had reduced debts to the PAPU by 40%. (This at a time when Liberia joined PAPU member countries to celebrate Pan African Posts Day with an announcement of the lifting of the ban on exportation of perishable products that had been imposed during its Ebola crisis.)(4) Liberia was still in arrears to the PAPU when the George Weah inauguration stamps were announced in 2018,(5) although Liberia had been elected to the Administrative Council of PAPU in 2012.(6)

The building of the 17-storey PAPU (by the Chinese, of course) started in 2020, scheduled to take 30 months.(7)

Tanzania, as hosts, marked the first decade of the PAPU in 1990 with stamps (Scott #TZ 540-543 and souvenir sheet #544), followed just 18 days later by eight stamps and two souvenir sheets showing animals that had become extinct since the year 1800 (#TZ 545-554). I hope that Liberia is not now conflating PAPU and imminent extinction into the same issuance.

(1) Bryant E. Korn, “Liberia’s One Dollar Hippopotamus”, LPS Journal (Journal of the Liberian Philatelic Society, 3(1) (January-March 2020): 9-14
(2) “NIPOST launches new N255 stamp”, The Punch (Nigeria), (September 7th 2023)
(3) Gaenor Lipson, “Business Briefs”, Sunday Times (Johannesburg), (July 21st 2002)
(4) Jimmey C. Fahngon, “Liberia Celebrates”, The News (Monrovia), (January 19th 2016)
(5) Prince Parker, “Posts Launches Weah's Inaugural Postage Stamp”, The News (Monrovia), July 24th 2018
(6) “Nation Elected to Papu High Post”,, (April 18th 2012)
(7) Deus Ngowi, “African Postal Union Office Construction Kicks Off”, The Daily News (Dar es Salaam), January 9th 2020
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