Zimbabwe’s Problem With Digital Payments – Shutting Down Social Media Turns Off The Lights

As we mentioned earlier today Zimbabwe’s got a problem with voter unhappiness with the current government – more specifically, about the place having some of the most expensive fuel in the world at $12 a gallon. That unhappiness turned to unrest as people talked about it over the usual social media channels like WhatsApp and so on. So, what does the government do then?

Yes, quite obviously, it turns off the internet.

Zimbabwe seems to have jumped from the frying pan to the fire here with that change from Robert Mugabe over to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. For the President announced a rise in fuel prices – effectively a tax of course – to some of the most expensive in the world. $12 a gallon is about right, without even bothering to account for the very much lower incomes in that country Mugabe so impoverished. This, not unrealistically, set off riots the result of which are that the government has decided to close down the internet. Presumably people will stop complaining if there’s no electronic means of complaining.

Might not be how you or I would handle it but then we’re not running – mis-running – a country, are we?

There is a problem with this though. For in some ways Zimbabwe is a very advanced nation. The payments system is almost entirely internet based for example. Not actually because anyone set out for it to be so, rather because previous government action destroyed the previous currency:

WHEN the Zimbabwean government ordered internet service providers to shutter parts of the web in an effort to curb anti-government protests, it also plunged homes into darkness because people can’t pay their utilities online. Most people in the country use Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s Ecocash mobile phone payment system for daily transactions. They buy electricity in units of $5 or less and almost all domestic users are on pre-paid meters, so many buy for $1 at a time.

According to Zimbabwe’s finance ministry less than 5% of commercial transactions in the country involve cash, mainly because it’s hard to find. Instead, Zimbabweans use Ecocash or bank cards.

The government decides to stop people talking about how badly the government is running the country by shutting down social media. That kills the main and basic payment for the country – what was it we were saying about how badly the government is running the country?

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Good then that Mugabe ruined the agriculture sector as any farmers would be unable to afford tractor fuel.