#Innovation: Nigeria to Address the World with ‘what3words’


Nigeria’s postal service, NIPOST, has just announced its adoption of the innovative global addressing system ‘what3words,‘ to increase the number of homes it can deliver to and improve delivery services in preparation for the take-off of Nigerian ecommerce.

Being the 3rd country in Africa to adopt the innovative digital address system, and the 7th globally, NIPOST is determined to increase home delivery to 70% within the next two years and 90% by 2020 through the ‘Mail for Every House Initiative’ (MEHI), and has adopted what3words to help it achieve these goals.

This is as a result of Nigeria’s poor addressing system which shows that only 20% of its inhabitants receive mail at home: 79% of homes and businesses cannot receive deliveries to the door, and the remaining 1% receive their mail using one of the 478,000 P.O. boxes throughout the country. A postcode system does exist, but only 5% of mail gets properly addressed with the postcode, hampering the efforts of NIPOST to improve its quality of service.

‘what3words’ is an innovative global addressing system which has divided the world in 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique three word address. Three word addresses are easy to remember, and to share via email, text or over the phone. For example, the three words, ‘bracelets.hesitations.mutes’ refers to the exact 3m x 3m square at the entrance to the main post office in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Available in 14 languages, with many more currently in development, what3words is used in over 170 countries by governments, postal services, logistics companies, emergency services and NGOs, as well as individuals. It is more accurate than traditional street addresses, simpler than landmark-based directions, and easier to remember and communicate than GPS coordinates. The system has built-in error detection and is available through a free mobile app and API integration. The system also works offline without a data connection.

With Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy and an estimated population of 184 million, ‘what3words’  has the potential to scale ecommerce in the country as it will facilitate fast delivery of parcels and packages. The system is already being used for mail deliveries in Mongolia, Sint Maarten, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Tonga and Solomon Islands.


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