How Many Cows for a Zimbabwe Wife for Lobola?

Honoring an African tradition of paying a bride price into the tech age.

A software developer in Johannesburg has taken the time-honored African tradition of paying a bride price into the tech age. He designed an app to calculate the woman’s value.

Anyone weighing up whether to ask for a woman’s hand can enter her stats into 26-year-old Kopo Robert Matsaneng’s Lobola Calculator and it churns out her value in the currency, the rand, and tells you how many cows that would equate to. The price can also be converted into pounds, euros and dollars on the app.

The app considers the person’s age, height, weight, waist size, and how attractive they are: ranging from “not at all” to “really hot.” The prospective groom must also enter what qualifications the woman has, whether she has a job, whether she’s been married before and whether she’s got children.

“This is a fun app to calculate how much lobola you’re worth,” Matsaneng says in the app’s introduction. “It’s simple, fun and meant to be playful, so enjoy.”

Lobola, known outside South Africa by other names, is a tradition practised in many parts of Africa, where a man’s family approaches a woman’s relatives to propose marriage and to negotiate a bride price. The custom symbolizes a coming together of the two families. Lobola was historically paid in livestock, a symbol of wealth, but now it often includes other goods and money.

Cooking skills

While most users liked the app, some objected that it was not in tune with the true value of lobola, Matsaneng said on the app’s site. “Some people are already too angry about the concept,” he responded to queries requesting more valuation criteria such as cooking and alcohol intake.

The app also maps out the average lobola values in South Africa’s different provinces as well as in Lesotho and Swaziland, small neighboring countries. The highest is R100 000, or 12 cows, in Lesotho and Swaziland. The lowest is R35 000 , or five cows, in the South Africa’s arid Northern Cape province.

“A day without laughs is a day wasted,” Matsaneng said in an e-mailed response to questions.

©2015 Bloomberg News

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