Friday, 27 May 2016

Zimbabwe: Crypto-Currency Looking Good Right About Now


For the longest time I have been pretty skeptical about Bitcoins and the Blockchain. I heard about it and felt it was a machination for advanced economies! In much the same way, Zimbabweans skeptically view any new policies introduced by our Reserve Bank, ever since the defunct monetary policies that led to the extinction of the Zimbabwean Dollar back in 2009.

When Bond coins were introduced to try and alleviate change shortages, the majority of the population got infuriated. At the time, you could hardly get change in shops, in cents, after a purchase as the Rand coins we used were not easy to come by and US$ coins were so rare, a lot of people did not even know what they looked like. I remember a time when you would end up receiving your cents change’s worth in sweets, matches, pens or even razors, where you would have preferred the money itself. Despite all this, the nation was against the bond coins! It was so bad initially that commuter bus operators and vendors at first would neither accept, nor acknowledge them yet merely 6 months down the line, the bond coin had settled comfortably as if we had been using it for generations.

The recent news of the introduction of Bond notes sparked some outrage as expected, but for open minded people, it was an opportunity to analyze how Zimbabweans are always untrusting at first, yet eventually adopt that which they were initially unsure of. It is no secret that the use of Bitcoin in Zimbabwe could prove to be the vice that creates a stable trading environment. One only needs to read up on Bitcoin and its advantages to realize this is what Zimbabwe needs.

Bitcoins are to Zimbabwe what Penicillin was to the world in 1942, the medicine for its economic infection. I mean if you critically analyze it, it is a no brainer really. The most widely recognized currency is the United States Dollar and Zimbabwe officially adopted it for use a little more than half a decade ago. The US$ has only one source and that is the United States of America, a country which, as I quite recently heard, had more sanctions against Zimbabwe than it did against North Korea up until March this year! How then can we expect this country’s currency to help solve all our problems for I’m pretty sure if currency were edible, America would have poisoned it for us, which ironically they did and I will explain that:

Zimbabwe is currently a net importer, whatever exports we have are so negligible they are not worth the trouble of mentioning. In essence, Zimbabwe is on a daily basis bleeding out the currency we are so desperately trying to cling on to. Imagine a dam that is receiving 10litres of water from its tributaries per day yet is syphoning out 1000litres a day. In time, there will be no water left at all, and that is how our economy is currently short of the US currency. We urgently need influx of this currency through Foreign Direct Investments but because of the sanctions, even willing Americans are not able to invest in Zimbabwe, their banks will not enable it.

This is exactly where Bitcoins come in. The technology behind Bitcoin is decentralized meaning it is not controlled by any one person or government or even one financial body. In fact, the main engine that drives this spectacular virtual currently is available on the internet for anyone who opts to learn how it works. If you learn its intricacies, even YOU can be able to check out its cylinders, pistons, plugs and all other components as they turn the world toward a revolutionary Techno age. I have heard people say that the Bitcoin is the best technological innovation that has happened to the world since the Internet! However, the Bitcoin technology itself as a driving force cannot steer the world to the bespoke revolution. That, is accomplished by functional entities which give it purpose, direction and one such for Zimbabwe is BitMari. BitMari initially will be offering a way for people in the diaspora community to directly send money to Zimbabwe and all other African countries as Bitcoin, which eliminates the dependence we have on the US$. This essentially means that the American investor who initially could not directly invest in Zimbabwe because of restrictions by financial institutions now can. Some would argue he could have gone to Western Union but I will ask you this, when was the last time you tried US$250 million through Western Union?

Through revolutionary remittance companies leveraging the Blockchain, like BitMari, such international transactions not only become possible, but they are also faster, cheaper and overall more transparent. This is just one use of Bitcoin but there are many other use cases for Zimbabwe if Bitcoin is officially recognized, as one would merely store the Bitcoins in their phone wallet instead of this elusive cash and simply use their phone to make purchases. One could quite literally survive without ever handling cash if this technology is widely adopted by Zimbabweans as much as they have embraced the bond coins they were initially against. You could wake up and get in a kombi to town, transfer the XBT 0.0011 (equivalent to US$0.50) from your wallet to the Hwindi’s wallet (conductor in commuter omnibus) and when you get off, decide you wish to buy a fruit, approach a vendor and transfer Bitcoin to their wallet in like manner. The vendor would also use the same concept to procure their wares from distributors who in turn acquire their stock from farmers through Bitcoin. When farmers have access to Bitcoin, it becomes simpler and more economical for them not only to procure inputs, but to also export their surplus.

With the little experience I have gained working in the Bitcoin space, through BitMari, I have come to observe that Zimbabweans are skeptical of this technology for one reason, that is, they do not understand it, how it works or how it stands to collectively benefit them. Upon learning of Bitcoin, each one starts to ask how this will put money into their pocket, individually and that is how many got mislaid by pyramid schemes and other unscrupulous Bitcoin leveraging crooks. The question in this case should be; how will this technology revamp Zimbabwe’s Trading space, the economy collectively and, by extension yourself? Make no mistake, the performance of your economy is directly proportional to your very own standard of living. The better your economy performs, the better off YOU are.

If you know absolutely nothing about Bitcoin, I suggest you visit Google immediately, search “What is Bitcoin” and get with the program. Bitcoin isn’t coming, its already here!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Ready To Erupt

Over the past couple of weeks, I have absent-mindedly observed and participated in a paradigm of civil unrest in my beloved country Zimbabwe. Something is truly astir, what with the electric atmosphere I sense constantly among all the people I meet. Like a large volcano about to erupt, Zimbabwe is experiencing tremors that can only culminate in an eruption. The revolutionary tendrils of this have been slowly entwining around the masses and it does not take a prophet to notice what is going on and infer the meaning from that observation. The masses in Zimbabwe are willing and ready to speak out against the betrayal they have suffered under their elected officials.
Having grown up in Zimbabwe, I have known my people to be politically subtle, never raising their heads high for fear of victimization and rightly so. Never has a nation gone through so much turmoil and its people remained steadfastly silent. I feel as Zimbabwean citizens, we just did not have a veiled platform on which we could express ourselves as, even unsanctioned yet peaceful demonstrations on the streets would be quelled by stern ruthlessness by our uniformed forces. No wonder we have kept silent. There is a Shona proverb which says, “Mwana asingachemi anofira mumbereko” which loosely translated could be “A baby who does not cry dies at birth” or something like that. Our wise elderly folk knew that at some point, every individual has so much pent-up rage and frustration that it has to surface eventually. In much the same way, Zimbabweans are ready to take up the wailing mantle and let their voices be heard.

Tremors In 2016

1.       At the beginning of the year, rumours started circulating that our president had passed away. This came at a time when our veteran leader was on leave, vacationing outside the country. It was not a first for such rumours but this time was different. The news circulated internationally with news agencies all across the world taking heed. There was so much uncertainty that even I, who had heard this song many times before, began to believe that it could be true. It was the talk on WhatsApp platforms nationwide with memes flying all over. This was a turning point for, as far as I knew, Zimbabweans could never speak out like that, even on Social Media. This newfound bravery was inspirational though I knew it wouldn’t last. 

2.       From January up until April, it was silent again in Zimbabwe, a tumbleweed would have made you grit your teeth. However that was not to last for in mid-April, the MDC opposition held a demonstration in Harare town and Social Media once again was abuzz with news and images of this. This was quiet epic for within the first quarter, Zimbabweans had taken to Social Media twice to air their frustrations. You can imagine how the comments start to flow especially on Twitter where our President’s lieutenant, Professor Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) will be at the centre of it all ridiculing the outbursts. Where Zimbabweans would run away from speaking their minds to politicians, they openly criticized the Professor!!

3.       A fortnight after the MDC demonstration debacle, ZImbos (affectionate abbreviation for Zimbabweans) took to social media again to relay their various opinions on Acie Lumumba. Acie Lumumba is a Zimbabwean politician and media personality. He is a member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). He was accused of misappropriation of funds and corruption and was fired as chairman of a Steering Committee on the Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment Strategy for Investment following allegations of misappropriating funds meant for the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC). As you can imagine, Zimbabweans leapt on it like white on rice and tore at the fabric of their political representation. He appeared on ZiFM radio, interviewed by Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa, an interview which stoked people’s outrage and the attacks were redirected and focused on Ruvheneko. (I cannot say for sure if that had anything to do with her being the daughter of Zanu PF politician and Zimbabwean Minister of Health from 2002 to 2009

4.       My fourth observation is from the 1st of May to the current day and this time Zimbabweans vented out their frustrations on 3 different topics all at the same time!!
a.       Zimbabwean communities have of late discovered health benefits of the quail bird, the available market for it and as such, numerous people have embarked upon raising them for resell so as to earn substantial income to take care of their families. It came as a surprise therefore, when the government reported it would ban the rearing of these birds and one would need a special license to keep them. The Chihuta, as its locally known, became an overnight sensation as people portrayed it in various roles on meme, even to the point of “replacing” the Zimbabwe bird on the national flag. On the streets, everybody was talking about it while on WhatsApp it became the brunt of all jokes in all groups.
b.      At the peak of this frustration against them with Zvihuta, the government of Zimbabwe dropped the explosive news that they would be introducing bond notes! The last time we had cash shortages, in 2007/08, the Reserve Bank introduced Bearer Cheques and this escalated inflation levels so high we had to abandon our currency. A few days ago, Reserve bank issued notices that they will be introducing Bond notes (Just like bearer cheques as they both are not really official currency) to curb cash shortages riddling the nation. This news sparked the worst imaginable outrage as citizens saw a repeat of 2008/9 shortages. Educated Facebook debates between Zimbabweans became the order of the day which even learned individuals would have had trouble dispelling. I studied economics for a while at University but even I could not argue against the sound economic logic of a vendor!!
c.       During this same time, Pastor Evan Mawarire spoke out on Social Media against the corruption, nepotism and general mismanagement our government is infamous for. The Pastor of a small Church, His Generation Church, Evan uploaded an emotionally charged video of how Zimbabweans are suffering, failing to raise school fees for Children while elected officials to roll around in the latest versions of expensive cars each year. I personally know Pastor Evan but never have I seen him so passionate about Zimbabwe before and it came as a surprise to me when Zimbabweans caught on and carried up his message by posting images of themselves carrying the Zimbabwean flag culminating in South African broadcaster SABC noticing and doing a news report on it. Zimbabweans from all around the world caught on and not only applauded the move, but actively supported it. It was no surprise when Professor Jonathan Moyo began posting derogatory comments only to be ridiculed by Twimbos (affectionate abbreviation for Zimbabweans active on Twitter)

For Zimbabweans, these are unprecedented levels of baring their anger. The usually quiet citizens are now speaking out. In only 5 months of this year, they have dominated on Social Media and with each outburst, they get more confident to say what is on their minds. I may not be able to see into the future but one thing is clear, the seasons are changing for Zimbabwe. The strength of people’s frustrations is gathering up momentum and soon, it shall be felt. In a quiet place, a single voice can be easily located and obliterated but if numerous voices cry out all at once, it is nigh impossible to discern the source.

Speak, my fellow Zimbabweans, speak!!