Tech and Its Unassuming Impact on… the Bovine Trade

Steve McDonald By Steve McDonald
Bond Strategist

Slap In The Face Award


This slap goes out to all of us who resist technological change… especially in Africa.

The digital age has made many things faster, more efficient and, in many cases, easier.

Take banking, for example. Most of us remember what it was like before ATMs and online banking.

It’s Friday afternoon, around 2:30, and you’re running to the local bank to get some cash for the weekend. Banks closed at 3, and unless you had a relationship with a local merchant who would cash your personal check, there was nowhere to get any cash until the banks opened again on Monday morning.

Now there’s an ATM on every corner.

We get our Social Security checks deposited directly to our accounts. That has all but eliminated the theft of those checks, which was a huge problem for decades.

Our bills are paid automatically. We transfer money from account to account with just a click. And all because of the internet.

Yes, there are some cybersecurity issues because of these advancements, but those are miniscule problems compared with the trouble digital advances have caused in Africa. And it’s all about cows.

Yup, cows! It’s called lobola – or bridal pricing. And it seems the engagement and dowry process in Africa is in a major tizzy because of the new digital money system’s inability to deliver bovines.

The president of South Africa recently paid a lobola of 120 cows and some cash for a princess from Swaziland. This is their traditional way of welcoming a new daughter to their family. And this system has functioned this way for centuries.

But the young folks want to use a quicker and simpler way of transferring cash – not something that requires grazing space – to expedite their marriage arrangements. As you can imagine, many seniors aren’t crazy about the idea.

In fact, engagements are being canceled because one party wants to use lobola internet transfers and the other side considers it an insult not to give live animals.

And it goes further. Negotiations between families can be brought to a standstill if one side uses email instead of a handwritten note to communicate about the lobola.

But technology is making some headway; 110,000 people have downloaded the Lobola app for their phones. It calculates a lobola amount by considering a woman’s education, employment status, whether she can bake and her feelings about housework.

Oh, yeah! That one would go over big here.

And never let it be said that the parents are completely opposed to the new methods of wealth transfer. One family begrudgingly agreed to a digital transfer of cash instead of the traditional livestock exchange… but only if it received a goat as an apology.

Well, it isn’t blockchain technology, but it is a step forward.

Good investing,