A Brand New Year

Happy new year everyone. I realise I’m over two weeks late but, as they say, better late than never. Hope you all had a great festive season and drank plenty of beer with family and friends. I did.

Been quite a while since I last wrote anything and in the meantime so much has happened. So much, in fact, that my life- and the lives of millions of Zimbabweans- completely turned around.

The military takeover intervention of November last year that resulted in Mugabe’s “resignation” is without a doubt the most significant political event since 1980. It was so surreal and sudden, so much that I couldn’t even write about it. I just took notes and decided I will reflect on it from a much sober position some time in the future.

Aside from the coup-not-coup life’s been pretty normal, if anything can be normal after the departure of dear old Bob. So that means the usual- disappointments, unmet deadlines, drinks, friends, not finishing projects, drinks, unfinished books, drinks and so forth.

And 2018 promises to be just the same, though there are a couple of big things that will be happening   this year including elections here in Zimbabwe and the World Cup. Also will be interesting to see how the cryptocurrency craze turns out. It’s one of the most important developments since the internet came to us, and it promises to change the world. On that note, yesterday I found this article in the New York Times quite interesting.

Lastly, of course, New Year’s resolutions. And these, as ever, remain more or less the same: Make more money, exercise more , blog more, read more books, drink less beer on weekends, finish projects , learn new things blah blah.

Ladies and gentlemen, to another year of disappointing our parents hehe.

The death of compassion and ethics in the age of selfies

The Herald reports a horrific accident that occurred a few days ago when two cars collided and more than 10 people were burnt beyond recognition in the resulting inferno. 

An unlikely hero of that terrible event is a guy who was herding cattle. He pulled a number of people to safety from the burning vehicles. 
Says the Herald:

“We spent almost 30 minutes before any car passed-by and when the first car arrived, most of the motorists were interested in taking photos and videos.
“If many of us were helping people from the wreckage all of them would not have been burnt. Some people were burnt while they were still alive. Maybe they would not have died”

– Herald 

This is such a heartwrenching story and kudos to this guy, a real hero. He deserves a medal. 

But what struck me was the fact that some people chose to take pictures instead of assisting in the rescue efforts. 
So instead of more lives saved, we got horrific images of burnt bodies on WhatsApp and Twitter. Isn’t it enough that families have lost loved ones, must they see their corpses on chain messages as well? 

Where’s the compassion? The ethics? 

That is what technology has made us; callous automatons, always eager to snap a photo, to tweet, never that quick to help. 

38 Years of Crime

A 55-year-old Harare man convicted of armed robbery last week together with 11 others, started stealing in 1979 and never looked back, resulting in him being convicted on several occasions between then and now, it emerged in court yesterday.
Charles Nyandoro began living a life of crime when he was only 17-years- old. After the 1979 conviction, Nyandoro was back in the courts after independence in 1980, 1982 and twice in 1984 for assault and rape.
He was arrested in 1988, 1991 and 2006 for robbery. Nyandoro told Harare regional magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya yesterday that his first conviction in 1979 was his way of celebrating the country’s imminent independence.

– The Herald

38 years of crime.

As The Herald reports, the dude above has been a criminal for almost 40 decades. Quite a long time and about time he goes behind bars, perhaps this time for good.

Despite his attempts at humour by saying he committed his first crime to celebrate Independence, this is a vile character that should be removed from society.

But I couldn’t help thinking of the other criminals esp politicians who’ve stolen and looted for just as long with no punishment.

Indeed, as Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’

What Zimbabwe and the developing world can learn from China 

This post is an extended version of a Facebook post I wrote a few days ago. The original post also appears on Techzim.

For much of history China was one of the most powerful countries on earth; surpassing Europe and the rest of the world in almost everything, from industry and economics to technology and warfare. In the early 19th century China’s economy accounted for a third of global GDP.

The achievements of the Chinese before the 19th century are often understated yet, for example, the Chinese invented the three things that Francis Bacon said led to the scientific revolution – gunpowder, the magnetic compass and paper and printing.

China’s technological superiority allowed it to be a global leader but this began to change in the middle of the 19th century when the Western countries began rapidly industrializing, building on the back of scientific developments. Modern economies greatly depend on technological advancements for growth, even when other factors such as labour and natural resources are limited.

Why the slump in the China’s economy happened, and how China, since 1979 has started to regain its position as a leading economy is the subject of a book by Justin Yifu Lin, a Professor of Economics at Peking University and former Chief Economist and Vice President of the World Bank, called Demystifying the Chinese Economy.

After the Communists under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 China made some serious strides, building a powerful army and even developing nuclear bombs. However institutional problems and other flaws of the regime meant China was still one of the poorest countries in the world in 1979, with a per capita income of $210. In comparison, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was $736 in 1979 and $916 in 1980.

This changed in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping came to power after the death of Mao. In the Communist Party’s 3rd Plenary Session of the Central Committee held that year, the Chinese changed their fate by ushering in reforms. 

Deng in 1980 made a target, that by 2000 China should have quadrupled its 1980 GDP,  which required a growth rate of 7.2% every year,  a figure generally thought by economists to be impossible to achieve in the long term except after a war or natural disaster. 

It turns out Deng Xiaoping was modest in his demands, because China achieved an average annual growth rate of 9.9% from 1979 to 2009 (it has slowed down a bit since). By 2009 the Chinese GDP per capita stood at $3744 (Zimbabwe’s meanwhile had fallen to $594).

The Chinese, in 30 years, went from being broke and unable to feed themselves to making modern gadgets, (I use a Chinese made phone,  Xiaomi), having reserves in excess of $3 trillion and lifting an incredible 600 million people from poverty. 
I think this book contains important lessons for other developing countries like Zimbabwe. The first being that a leadership with vision is a prerequisite for development. We need our economic Deng.

A visionary leadership will allow for institutional reform because strong institutions are a necessary condition for economic development. This includes a tough approach to corruption, a respect for the rule of law and the crafting of laws that are friendly to economic development. That is why, for instance, the STEM initiative though a good idea, might not achieve its full potential, because of the lack of institutions and industries that utilize the graduates. 

Additionally, it shows how problematic the idea of “building a Silicon Valley” is, because a tech hub is not really physical, it starts from having the right attitude, from having laws that allow young innovators to import without ZIMRA bankrupting them and allows them to set up companies easily without the challenges of complicated and time consuming paperwork and a tax collector that is brutal.

Secondly developing countries can exploit what economists term “the latecomer advantage”, which allows developing countries to develop much faster than developed ones using importation, integration and imitation. This allows us to quickly develop technologically without spending as much on research and development (R&D) while also avoiding the mistakes done by the early implementers. For example you’d think we would go straight to optical fiber networks and skip ADSL in telecommunications. 

This is crucial for the growth of technology, which Yifu Lin identifies as the most important factor of a modern nation’s development. When people make fun of cheap Chinese imitation phones they miss two profound points- that the people of China are firstly able in the first place to manufacture such phones cheaply, and secondly and more importantly, that such cheap phones enable a lot of Chinese people to go online and therefore participate in the new and ever growing online economy. This has a trickledown effect in other areas, such as online payment systems, mobile app development, software development, online service deliveries and so forth. All because the Chinese can copy and mass produce cheap devices.

But because each country is different solutions should not be imported wholesale, they must be tailored to suit that country’s unique social,  political and historical circumstances. 

Indeed,  Yifu Lin warns in the preface that, “… the opportunities and challenges facing  developed countries differ from those of developing countries,” hence “when attempting to adopt theories from developed countries to guide their policies,  developing countries may be at loss about which one to pick. Even if they select one, the theory may not suit their conditions.” 

The responsibility, then, is on the scholars and intellectuals of the developing countries who by their positions are uniquely situated to understand the history,  culture and realities of their countries and should use that knowledge to formulate a system capable of transforming their countries. 

Importantly, Yifu Lin says, the intellectuals of the developing world “should thus deepen the understanding of their countries in all aspects including in political, economic and other social dimensions.”  Only then can they create a practical economic framework that addresses the unique opportunities and challenges of modernizing their countries. 

Developing countries therefore need to start giving more space to intellectuals and technocrats in public policy making. Much of our policies lack any intellectual grounding or academic background, which is why we recklessly throw around numbers such as $15 billion, 2 million jobs and others, even though there are no reputable studies to substantiate them.

After that the key is advancing technologically. But this requires us to have in place laws that promote our creativity and innovators, and obviously financial institutions willing to invest money in our ideas, not councils that try to demolish the few places we set up for creatives- such as Moto Republik.

The Government Must Embrace the Internet, It’s here to Stay 

​TechZim reports that the Minister Supa Mandiwanzira recently said that telecoms companies have lost up to $26 million in revenue due to the use of over the top services such as WhatsApp calls and Skype. Consequently, the minister continued, Potraz (which regulates telecommunication companies) and the people of Zimbabwe also lost money. Potraz, he said, lost $139 000 while “we” the people lost $4 million in potential taxes. 

I chuckled when I read that, because aside from not making much sense, there’s nothing wrong with over the top services.

This is simply how technology works. Regardless of the minister’s wishes, or his grasp of Economics, the truth here is that ordinary voice calls and texts are on the decline. Not only here but globally (see here,  here,  here). 

Governments and corporates might not like the decline of voice calls for many reasons. One of the biggest might be the loss of control. The government might resent the limited control they have on third party services such as Skype or WhatsApp as opposed to normal voice and texts which they can access,  control or monitor through local telecom companies. 

However from a purely economic perspective, it is better for the economy as a whole to use over the top services. 

Ask any person in the street whether they are worried that WhatsApp is replacing texts and you’ll get an emphatic no. People are actually happy with the convenience and cheapness of WhatsApp.

The telecoms companies are certainly not as happy,  after all they lose money. But I think it’s incorrect for the minister to say that the people of Zimbabwe also lost money in the form of potential taxes. My understanding of Economics (which is admittedly informal and limited) informs me that cheaper ways of communication are better for everyone. 

After all consumers communicated using cheaper means, that is through data, rather than texts or voice calls. So the consumers benefited, and the money they may have spent on airtime was spent on something else. Wherever that money was spent it most certainly had taxes imposed, so <em>another</em> sector of the government’s taxes rose. Even when that money was spent on tax free items, the overall commerce of the economy hardly changed.

More importantly from a tech perspective it is a development that has far reaching technological consequences. Consider a situation where there are fewer and fewer voice calls and texts. Obviously more people will seek to buy smartphones that are WhatsApp capable. The smartphones are more expensive than feature phones hence more business again. 

Smartphones also have plenty of features whose positive impact on the economy might not be apparent now. These include opportunities for online businesses, improved internet connectivity, greater citizen awareness, more access to information by the citizenry and a boost to the local app ecosystem. The possible benefits of more people adopting smartphones are vast.

That is the way of technology. In fact there were people who were unhappy when cars started replacing horse-drawn carriages. You can guess that those were people who either owned horses or lords who were wealthy enough to have them. It’s true as well that a whole lot of jobs dies with the rise of cars, for example blacksmiths who made horseshoes and cinches.

Similarly one might point out the “lost revenue” of postal services with the rise of the internet. Or that by camera makers when the smartphone started having decent cameras.

It’s true, but it needs to be viewed in the broader context.

These arguments ignore the other side: the jobs created by car makers, the people employed because of the internet and, of course, the many other important technologies and inventions that sprung from these disruptive technological advances.

Clever companies have already realized that there isn’t much money in texts and voice anymore. The next fifty years belong to the web and web applications and content delivery on the internet is where the money is going to be. Companies like AT&T have stayed in the game by evolving and adapting to the times. Those that refuse- like Kodak did with the digital cameras, or IBM with computers will find themselves eclipsed by more responsive firms.

Strive Masiyiwa knows this. That’s why Liquid Telecom recently bought Neotel of South Africa and Raha of Tanzania. Both provide internet services. Together with Zol, Econet will be assured of a place in Southern Africa’s tech space for the next few decades. That’s also why Mr Masiyiwa is so passionate about the Kwese TV project. The internet is the future, and whosoever ignores this simple fact will be left behind.

The minister of ICT should be working on ensuring that more people have access to the internet instead of lamenting over money that was never the treasury’s to begin with. 

Zimbabwe 2 – 4 Tunisia : Ruthless Carthage Eagles Send Warriors Home After Brilliant First Half Display 

​Last night’s match between Zimbabwe and Tunisia brought to mind Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Macbeth remarks to Seyton that life’s “but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more.” 

The same might be said of the Warriors of Zimbabwe,  after they were dumped out of this year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. They played like shadows of themselves,  fretted and strutted for a while,  then were eliminated in ignominious fashion. 

When the inquest into the Warriors’ dismal performance at this year’s AFCON comes,  as it will inevitably do, excuses will be proffered, as always. It will be pointed out that the group was a difficult one, a so called group of death, that our football administration makes it impossible for a coach to win and so on. 

Yet, however mitigatory these circumstances may be, the blame for last night’s defeat ought to be laid squarely on Callisto Pasuwa’s feet. 

Zimbabwe entered this match knowing that only a win would do. Anything else would mean an early return home. Surprisingly, given the circumstances, Pasuwa opted for a defensive formation that featured two defensive midfielders and a central midfielder flanked by wingers and Nyasha Mushekwi as the sole striker.

In midfield Danny Phiri made a return, partnering the Zimbabwean Captaim Willard Katsande with Marvelous Nakamba in a slightly more advanced midfield role. Kuda Mahachi dropped to the bench, as his spot on the wing was taken by Knowledge Musona. Billiat occupied the other wing and Nyasha Mushekwi, despites his poor showing in the last two matches, played as the outright striker. The backline remained unchanged. 

One would have thought that after the first two matches the coach would choose a more offensive formation and picked Tendai Ndoro in place of Mushekwi. Additionally, playing Danny Phiri together with Katsande and Nakamba meant the midfield triumvirate was going to be very defensive right from the start. The problems were compounded by the fact that this three played so close to one another that it was impossible to distribute the ball effectively in the middle of the pitch.

Zimbabwe were pressurized by a very aggressive Tunisia from the first minute, with the North Africans relying on width to outpace the narrow Zimbabweam midfield. Danny Phiri lunged into a reckless challenge that earned him a yellow card. This resulted in a free kick that was powerfully shot at goal, leading to a corner as Tatenda Mukuruva arrived late to parry the ball out. The resulting corner was cut inwards, and met by Sliti who shot at goal and benefited from a defelection that wrong-footed Mukuruva and went in.

That was in the first ten minutes.  It meant Callisto Pasuwa’s team had conceded at least a goal in the first fifteen minutes of every match they had played. Such porousness is unacceptable at a competition of this level, and it highlighted that Pasuwa had not learnt anything from the first two matches, in which he had conceded early goals to both Senegal and Algeria.

Ten or so minutes later Tunisia got their second when the impressive Youssef Msikani poked a goal in after terrible defending from the Warriors and before long it was three. Knowledge Musona showed class and composure to pull one back for the Warriors just before half time but a minute later Zimbabwe were caught in a counter attack. Costa Nhamoinesu dragged down and a penalty was awarded. Wahbi Khazri coolly scored from the spot to make it four.

That’s how it stood at the interval: Tunisia 4, the Warriors 1. At that point it was clear as daylight that the game was effectively over as a contest. The Warriors had lost control of the game just after kick off and had been punished for it, letting in plenty of goals and gifting Tunisia a place in the knockout stages.

At halftime Callisto Pasuwa brought in Tendai Ndoro to replace Danny Phiri but the move was a late one. Zimbabwe were more composed and played better, though we were left wondering why Mushekwi was still on the pitch.

The second half was a much better one for the Warriors: Musona showed why his absence in the first two matches mattered, while the brilliant Khama Billiat dazzled displayed great skill, showing why he is arguably the finest player playing on the continent while Tatenda Mukuruva continued to shine, denying Tunisia a fifth and even a sixth. The game improved so much that Zimbabwe scored a second, this time from Tendai Ndoro.

Despite late resurgence from the Warriors, the game had died in the first half when terrible defending and tactical ineptitude condemned Zimbabwe to an ignoble defeat in the first half-hour. The Zimabwean right back, Hardlife Zvirekwi was frequently caught wandering out of position, granting the Tunisian wingers acres of space from which they could torment the Warriors. The central defender Elisa Muroyiwa was as bad, he was terribly caught out on several occasions, with two of those leading to a goal.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the team Zimbabwe sent out to face Tunisia were boys picked from the Sunday amateur “boozers” leagues, playing for a few beers and bragging rights. The players themselves did nothing to dispel this notion. The coach himself was probably the worst of the lot, he looked out of his depth from the second game onwards and this was surely his worst game in charge of the Warriors. It was a measure of his quality that with the Warriors trailing by four goal to one he had only made one substitution, and even though it was clear that the game was irredeemable, he could not bring himself to bring on some new players who we had not seen such as Tino Kadewerere, for instance, in place of people like Nyasha Mushwekwi who commanded an undeserved first team jersey.

It is no accident, then, that Callisto Pasuwa, with his solitary point, is the worst manager to ever coach the Warriors at the Africa Cup of Nations. He showed a shocking lack of tactical understanding, picked the wrong people and made the wrong substitutions.

The only bright sparks at this tournament were Tatenda Mukuruva, Khama Billiat, and briefly, Knowledge Musona.Together with Nakamba these can be a foundation upon which we can build future teams. 

However there can be no doubt that Pasuwa should not be in charge of those future teams.At the grandest stage of all he was left floundering. 

When the match finally ended, the relief on the Warriorss faces was palpable- their torment had also ended. And so had their appearance at the tournament. Pasuwa  and his poor players had strutted and fretted their hour upon the African field, to be heard no more.

Senegal 2 – 0 Zimbabwe : Pasuwa at Wit’s End as Imperious Lions of Teranga Maul Warriors 

​When the cameras swung to Callisto Pasuwa near the end of the match he had the look of a man thoroughly baffled,  as if wondering what he was doing in Gabon; like a party gatecrasher who, after failing to fit in, just resigns to enjoying the food and watching proceedings. He was, in Bible parlance,  a stranger in strange land. 

It was a fitting look for the Zimbabwean coach, the game was beyond his control- it had never been from kickoff – all he could do was marvel at the brilliance of the Senegalese. 

Pasuwa’s selection was itself questionable,  particularly the inclusion of the ineffectual Matthew Rusike and the exclusion of Tendai Ndoro,  who was relegated once more to the bench in favor of Nyasha Mushekwi. The return of Marvelous Nakamba meant Danny Phiri went to the bench but otherwise the team remained unchanged. 

Zimbabwe opted for a form of 4-2-3-1 formation with the duo of Nakamba and Katsande shielding the defense and ahead of them Billiart,  flanked by Mahachi and Rusike,  with Mushekwi as the striker. It is useful provided one of the two central midfielders links up with the attacking midfield,  and if the wide forwards help out in defensive duties. The Senegalese packed their midfield, which comprised of Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye,  flanked by Henri Saivet and Keita Diao. Sadio Mane and Mame Diouf were up front. 

Within the opening five minutes Zimbabwe were exposed at least twice,  as the Keita and Diouf missed golden chances . With Katsande and Nakamba playing to deep and Billiat too far ahead of them,  a deep hole was created in midfield,  into which Gueye and Kouyate drifted,  feeding Henri Saivet and Keita Diao who menaced Zimbabwe’s wing backs right from the beginning.

It was ominous of the things to come. Katsande lost the ball in midfield,  it found its way to Saivet who shot across goal. The ball appeared to be going out of play until Sadio Mane appeared to tap in an easy goal. Minutes later Saivet curled in a brilliant freekick from outside the box. 

The second goal effectively killed the game as a contest. That was sixteen minutes into the match. 

The Senegalese completely dominated the match for the remainder of the first half except for a brief period when the Zimbabweans threatened and Khama Billiat had a good chance to score. However the Mamelodi Sundowns talisman shot tamely at goal and his shot was saved by the Senegalese goalkeeper.

At half time Callisto Pasuwa made some surprising chances, bringing on Evans Rusike in for Matthew Rusike and Tendai Ndoro for Kuda Mahachi. Rusike had been poor,  losing possession to the Senegalese,  but both replacements were unexpected both tactically and qualitatively.

Pasuwa gave the impression of a man who had to act,  only because it was expected. As the man in charge he had to make changes. 

It meant Nyandoro was put on the wing where he proved ineffective,  while the other winger Evans Rusike,  disappeared from the match altogether. 

The second half was worse for Zimbabwe as Senegal created numerous chances that they would have undoubtedly buried had they not been two goals ahead. 

Only the intervention of Costa Nhamoinesu,  Zvirekwi and the Zimbabwean goalie kept the scoreline from becoming a rugby one. 

Mukuruva had to respond brilliantly several times in one-on-one situations, while Costa Nhamoinesu had to make several last-ditch clearances. 

Zimbabwe never really looked threatening,  except for a Mushekwi effort that went straight at Abdoulaye Diallo,  the Senegalese goalkeeper. The game had effectively died with the Saivet goal. 

Credit,  however,  must go to a brilliant Senegal that played some brilliant,  dazzling football. It won’t be surprising if they make it to the finals or even win the tournament. There has been no better side,  and Senegal  are deservedly the first side to qualify for the knockout stages of this tournament. 

However Zimbabwe will be hopeful of qualification especially on the back of some brilliant play by the goalkeeper and Costa Nhamoinesu. Vitesse’s Marvelous Nakamba,  was also quite authoritative in midfield on his birthday,  playing with surprising composure. A win against Tunisia will be enough provided Algeria do not win against Senegal. 

That,  of course,  looks unlikely given how we played and given the way our coach handled the game against Senegal. Pasuwa will need to be at his very best to have any hope of overcoming Tunisia. 

At some point the commentator had remarked that of all the coaches at the tournament,  only Pasuwa lacked European experience,  either as coach or player. Last night it was apparent. 

In the end it was the heroic efforts of Mukuruva and Costa Nhamoinesu,  especially  Mukuruva, that kept the  scoreline respectable. 

It could have been five or six on the night by the time the Senegalese withdrew the imperious Sadio Mane,  to thunderous applause.

Algeria 2 : 2 Zimbabwe –  Defiant Warriors Unlucky in Gabon

​Had anyone asked Callisto Pasuwa,  the Zimbabwean coach,  whether he would settle for a draw in the Warriors opening match against the Foxes of Algeria,  I think Pasuwa would have gladly accepted a draw as a great result.

Yet had Zimbabwe capitalized on their chances,  or had they  been a little more lucky, they could have left the Stade de Franceville with three points in a game in which they led for close to an hour. 

In the end Algeria salvaged a point,  courtesy of two goals in either half from Riyard Mahrez, the first to put them in front and the second to level up scores after Zimbabwe had gone ahead. 

It was a lively contest that brought to mind Sepp Herberger’s view of football that : “The ball is round. The game lasts ninety minutes. This much is fact. Everything else is theory.” 

On paper Algeria were far more superior,  boasting a storied line up featuring the likes of Yacine Brahimi and Leicester City’s Slimani and Mahrez,  the latter the best footballer in Africa. 
Zimbabwe, on the other hand,  have not played at this level for a decade and have been dogged by administrative issues and financial problems coming into the tournament. The players are not happy with the football association and there were rumors that the kit was not even ready. It hardly looked a fair contest. 

But that is theory,  the game’s 90 minutes had to run out. 

The Warriors started well,  playing with good pace and skill,  and an admirable lack of respect for their vaunted opponents, pressuring the Algerians into several corners. However Zimbabwe were forced into an early change as star striker Knowledge Musona appeared to have pulled a muscle and was replaced by Mathew Rusike. 

Khama Billiat,  never awed by the occasion, could have put Zimbabwe ahead in the first ten minutes. Twice he was thwarted,  first by the Algerian goalkeeper and then rather unfortunately by the upright. 

Riyard Mahrez capitalized on a misplaced back pass from Zimbabwe,  producing a goal against the run of play twelve minutes into the match. It was not a chance the African footballer of the year would have missed. Up until then Zimbabwe’s Warriors had been in control of the game. 

Zimbabwe responded within a few minutes as a goal from Kuda Mahachi leveled the match. 

Near the half hour mark the Warriors were ahead, this time from a Mushekwi penalty that came from some brilliant play by Bhasera, who was impeded in the course of a great attacking move. 

Nothing of note happened until just before half time when Zimbabwe had to defend several set pieces. A 40th minute free kick at the edge of the box had the Warriors holding their breath but the hard low free kick from Mahrez hit the Zimbabwean wall. 

At the interval the Warriors,  quite unbelievably,  were in  front. Despite not being dominant in the middle of the pitch,  they had had numerous chances and six corners to Algeria’s one. It could very well have been 3-1 in favor of Zimbabwe,  inconceivable as it seemed. 

Twice Khama Billiat came very close soon after half time; first denied by some great goalkeeping  after brilliantly turning the Algerian defense and then volleying over from the resultant corner. 

Soon afterwards a Bentaleb freak shot narrowly missed the upright and near the hour mark an Algeria corner hit the post as Zimbabwe endured a spell of sustained Algerian pressure. Near 70 minutes Mukuruva had to produce a brilliant save to keep Zimbabwe in the lead. A near own goal was prevented by the post. By that time the Warriors goalkeeper was by far  the busier of the two. 

The Warriors coach,  Callisto Pasuwa,  seeking to change fortunes,  withdrew Nyasha Mushekwi and brought on Cuthbert Malajila. It was a doubtful change,  considering that he left the in-form Tendai Ndoro on the bench. 

Inside a few minutes of his introduction, Malajila missed the game’s golden chance,  when he found himself one on one with the Algerian goalkeeper, setting the stage for an Algerian equalizer moments later. It was a classical Mahrez goal, but one the Zimbabwean goalkeeper should have saved. 

The last  few minutes of the game were nervous for the Warriors but they held on. It was a game Zimbabwe could have won, a game Malajila threw away. 

At the end the Warriors held on to a point. And in the scuffles of the game,  where the midfield were reduced to spectators in an affair entirely dominated by forwards,  it is ironic that for Zimbabwe the outstanding performer was Willard Katsande. 

The Kaizer Chiefs anchorman harried and chased,  tackled and won the ball, breaking up Algerian attacks time and again and gave his heart to the game. One hopes he will be paired with a more mobile partner in the games to come. His midfield partner of the day,  Danny Phiri,  is an able ball winner,  as much a tough tackler as Katsande himself, but he was found wanting when Zimbabwe were in possession. 

In possession the Warriors lacked an authoritative figure with the mobility, vision and inventiveness in midfield required to control the match. Without such a central midfielder they had no option but to punt the ball upfield to their forwards rather than build up play from the middle. The Vitesse midfielder Marvelous Nakamba should be considered for future matches,  seeing how ineffective the Warriors were in the middle of the pitch. 

Callisto Pasuwa will also have to display greater coaching acumen than he did in this game,  particularly in the second half where the team was reduced to defending for long periods and several players drifted aimlessly around the pitch. His team selection is also questionable, and there will be questions of why he didn’t bring in Tendai Ndoro or another central midfielder or winger in place of, say,  a tiring Mahachi later on. He is one of the least experienced coaches at the tournament and on this grandest of stages it showed. 

Still,  it was a game that Zimbabwe will feel they ought to have won. It would have been an entirely different story had Cuthbert Malajila put away his chance and on another day Billiart could have scored two or three. 

Callisto Pasuwa will also be encouraged by his charges’ performance and their refusal to be cowed by the stage or their opponents. The hope is that they will take heart from this draw,  and build on it in the coming games against Tunisia and Senegal. 

A win against Tunisia now looks possible and,  judging from this spirited performance, the Warriors can get at least a draw against Senegal and realistically qualify from one the tournament’s toughest groups. 

It was a thrilling match,  and a reminder of the game’s most enduring lesson –  that the whole is not always a sum of its parts. Football is a team sport,  and beyond having a talented squad,  the team that plays well together is more likely to win. Especially in national teams where the teams have little time to gel and get used to one another. 

The Guardian’s Peter Doyle,  in his analysis of the tournament’s  teams had given Zimbabwe no chance,  saying their stay in the tournament would be short. It seems he will be proved wrong.

After all,  the game is 90 minutes,  the ball is round. That much is fact. The rest,  who can say? 

A Good Gym is Hard to Find: Business Lessons From a Day of Gym Hunting

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In a big city like Harare you’d think finding a good gym is an easy thing. Turns out it’s harder than I imagined.

Yesterday I spent some time hunting for an ideal place to work out at. Ideal in this case means that the place should be in in the CBD or the Avenues. Secondly there should be standard Olympic barbells, weight plates of varying weights and a squat rack. And obviously shouldn’t be too expensive. That’s a short list, nothing fancy, should be plenty around I thought.

So I did the obvious thing- I went on the internet and searched for “gyms in Harare”. The results were poor, and the few gyms I found there didn’t appear to have any websites. Come on guys, in this day and age?

Which meant I had to resort to primitive ways i.e. going around town searching for gyms and comparing them. Started with the nearest one I knew, over at Fife Avenue shops. Fit the location requirement perfectly since it’s a few minutes’ walk from my place. “$40 a month and $10 for joining,” a short fella who I assumed to be the instructor said. I looked around the pace and wasn’t impressed. The space looked too small and the weights were in disarray. Told him I’d think about it and left.

Next was one I had found on Facebook, along Livingstone Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets. “$25 joining fee, $50 per month,” a bored lady at the reception told me. A well-built guy showed me around, he was refreshingly good company and he told me that students pay $35 per month. Looked a good enough place and I thought I might return there.

Later I went to the one in Joina City, called Oxygen Fitness. Located right in the CBD, housed in the city’s fanciest and newest high rise, it looked an expensive place. Fee is $20 for joining then $50 for a month. “What if I’m a student,” I asked remembering a previous encounter. “Oh, if you’re a student, and you’re below 25 you join for $15 and pay $40 every month,” I was told.

I also went to Empire Gym along Leopold Takawira, next to that shop where they sell those fancy Jaguars. A notice proudly proclaimed that they are the biggest fitness chain in the country. Like all things that used to be big in this country the gym has seen better times.

I visited more places, one recommended by a friend in downtown Harare where Harare Street and Albion intersect. Good enough place, $35 per month, no joining fee. Friendliest stuff I’d encountered. But there was a problem. The weight plates were terrible, looked like some kind of rubbery stuff and some barbells were of fixed weights.

It was quite an afternoon, I found one gym at Reylton sports club that looked like sh**, another sh**ty one at Les Brown swimming pool, several others in downtown Harare and, *surprise*, even one at Harare Central Police Station, in the basement, where they charge a dollar per session. Would’ve gone there if the equipment was adequate.

My search got me thinking about business. Reminded me of some ideas I have harboured for some years.

The best ideas, wrote Jason Fried in his short but awesome book, “Rework”, are those that solve the problems you have. This, he said, is called, “scratching your own itch”, and it often turns out to be the best way of getting entrepreneurial ideas. After all there are countless guys like me out there, facing the same problems right? (Well, actually I don’t think there are guys like me, but you get the point).

My experience was frustrating. I really felt that all the gyms I went to could and should do more to make their places more attractive. But of course these issues are not limited to gyms, they apply to most businesses in Zimbabwe.

So I thought I should point out a few things that I think will make Zimbabwean businesses better.

Firstly the staff who deal with people in Zimbabwean companies are generally a lazy, uninterested, bored and, perhaps, unqualified lot. In all the places I went- except the Reylton one where the owner was around- no one tried to encourage me to sign up, either verbally or by offering incentives. I mean when you’re a receptionist in a gym or fitness centre you ought to appear engaged and look happy to be doing your job instead of looking bored and not giving a fuck whether I sign up or not. This is prevalent in almost every sector, except where people are paid on commission. But again what do you expect when people just employ their friends daughters, or aunts or someone from church or an uncle’s baby momma?

Also you need to incentivise, for example if a prospective client complains about the price, why not reduce it by even five dollars. In a business like a gym where the costs are fixed such moves will make you much, much more money in the long run. Perhaps this is down to the owners who do not give their employees room to do such things. Or maybe the employees themselves are not paid enough to care. These guys could really learn a thing or two from the guys who sell phones at the ZimPost mall. Those guys really want you to buy and they often succeed too. And you wonder why those guys drive Mercs while fancy shops go bust.

Thirdly people really need to take their businesses online. Seriously, a basic website costs less than $200. You can get one done for $50 even. A simple two or three page site that lists the services offered, the prices and contact information will go a long way. Imagine the number of potential clients who miss your services because you’re invisible. Facebook and Twitter are fine but nothing beats the good old website for visibility, clarity and credibility. It really boggles my mind why people don’t get this. After investing tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands in a business, what’s another $200 for a website?

Businesses should also get the basics right. I mean it doesn’t matter that you have fancy treadmills and other equipment that no one knows how to use when you don’t have toilets or showers. In one gym they had pretty expensive stuff but no barbells, they simply got the basics wrong. At another they had the equipment you’d expect in a home gym. Come on comrades.

Lastly I think appearances are important in some business sectors. There’s nothing worse than seeing a potbellied fella giving fitness lessons and extolling the virtues of working out. Or overweight, lazy looking receptionists. I mean I have nothing against people’s weights but you can’t be a certain weight and work in a gym, just as you can’t be a certain height and work in the army, for example.

Some fellas need reminders that it’s the 21st Century. Come on makomuredhi. Even Baba Tencen is making money online.

 

How many cars are there in Zimbabwe?

Our roads are too congested
Our roads are too congested

If you’re like me you’ve probably argued about silly things, like the total number of houses in Zimbabwe or how many cars pass through a particular tollgate each day. These are the kinds of questions that arise after one too many drinks or during a very slow day. They are also the kind of questions you may be asked in an interview at Google or other tech companies.¹

Coming from a village small town, I have always thought Harare’s roads are too congested (don’t tell me about Beijing, New York or whatever, I live in Zimbabwe). The number of cars in Zimbabwe has risen dramatically in the past couple of years due to cheap second hand cars being imported from Japan.

So today, while caught up in traffic, my brother started talking about the high number of cars on our roads. He said there are probably so many cars in Harare that every person over the age of 18 can get one. We argued about this for a while and he said there are enough cars in the city for every household. Eventually I asked him how many cars he thinks there are in the whole country.

“Maybe 3 million,” he replied offhandedly.

But my brother is a lawyer and his understanding of numbers is ehmmm ….shaky. My own estimate was 1.5 million, a number he disputed with all the energy of a lawyer.

So I started thinking about how to get the total number of cars in Zimbabwe. There are a number of ways to go about it. The most accurate would be to go the Vehicle Registration offices and just ask, or somehow find the information from them or other official sources but then where would be the fun in that?

One could also use some statistical methods for a small sample, assume it’s random, and then extrapolate the results for the whole country.

However a  better method is to use the number (vehicle registration) plates. In 2006 the government introduced a new type of number plates.  These new plates are composed of three letters and four numbers such as in the image below.

Zimbabwean Number Plates (Image from The Bearded Man)
Zimbabwean Number Plates (Image from The Bearded Man)

Assuming that there are no plates with any letter combination followed by four zeros, eg ABX 0000 (and I haven’t seen any), any unique letter combination can have 9999 different set of plates i.e from 0001- 9999.

So far the latest cars getting registered are getting the letter combination ADX or maybe ADY. The task here is to establish how many unique combinations of letters- in incremental order and without repeating- there are from AAA up to ADX.

It’s not too difficult, just a little maths and knowledge of the alphabet.

There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Therefore from AAA – AAZ there are 26 different letter combinations and 26 × 9999 different number plates.

From AAZ the series goes to ABA up to ABZ where there are 26 other combinations, then another 26 from ACA to ACZ and so on. So from AAA to ADX there are 26 + 26 + 26 + 24  = 102 letter combinations, each capable of holding 9999 items. ²

Thus the total number of cars is 9999 × 102 = 1 019 898.

That’s it folks there are just over a million (registered & private) cars in Zimbabwe. There are of course other cars belonging to the government, military, police and other special classes. I’m also not sure where commecial vehicles- such as buses, kombis and trucks fit in.

If you add up all those- and the President’s considerable fleet- you may arrive at maybe 1.1 – 1.2 million cars which is actually near the official number according to the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration, ZINARA.³

Which means there’s roughly a car for every 11 Zimbabweans. Or a car for every 2 families.†

So I won the argument. That merits a blog post.

In case you are wondering, one of the reasons why the old plates were phased out was that we would one day run out of numbers. Under this new system the total number of possible number plates is a staggering 175 742 424 i.e 26 cubed × 9999 or 26 × 26 × 26 × 9999

Huge as that number may seem it’s still less than the estimated 254 million cars in the US. For comparison, Germany which is roughly the same size as Zimbabwe (but with way more people) has around 55 million cars.

Notes:

  1. Funny interview questions to test analytical skills are common in tech jobs, as reported by Forbes, Business Insider, Geekwire & others
  2. As far as I know a few minutes of observation revealed there are no cars with ADY plates, thus the 24
  3. ZINARA, on its website says “According to the central vehicle registry (CVR), Zimbabwe’s vehicle population stands at an estimated 1, 2 million”
  4. † There are almost 13 million people in Zimbabwe Wikipedia