The bride price app that got people talking

By: SAM WAMBUGU

In parts of Africa, a traditional marriage ceremony depends on payment of bride price.

In many of Kenya’s cultures, bride price must be paid first for the couple to get permission to marry in church or in other civil ceremonies, or the marriage is not considered valid by the bride’s family.

The bride price negotiation process can be an anxious ordeal for the groom’s family, not sure how much the girl’s family would ask.

During ancient days, bride price was a way of the groom saying “thank you” to the girl’s family for raising her.

Different communities have a name for bride price.

For example, Lobola is the name for bride price in Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi cultures, while ruracio is the word for bride price among communities living in Central region of Kenya.

BRIDE PRICE CALCULATOR

Matsaneng, a 26-year-old software developer in Johannesburg has taken the time-honoured African tradition of paying bride price into the tech age.

He has developed an app or a lobola calculator that estimates how much a woman is worth by judging her beauty, educational status, and marital history.

The app considers the person’s age, height, weight, waist size, and how attractive they are based on a subjective scale: “not at all” to “really hot.”

The prospective groom must also enter the qualifications the woman has, whether she has a job, whether she’s been married before and whether she’s got children.

The price can be converted to any currency.

The app also maps out the average lobola values in South Africa’s different provinces, as well as in Lesotho and Swaziland, and neighbouring countries where it is most popular.

The highest is R100 000, (approximately Sh1,350,000) or 12 cows, in Lesotho and Swaziland.

The lowest is R35 000 (approximately Sh472,000), or five cows, in South Africa’s arid Northern Cape province.

These amounts would obviously be ridiculously high for many young people in any society.

The affordability of ruracio, and planning for life after the wedding, is a factor many families take into consideration before settling on an amount.

This is not the first app of this kind.

NIGERIAN BRIDE PRICE APP

A few years back, a Kenyan and a Nigerian had similar apps but at the time of writing, we could not trace the Kenya version.

In the Nigeria edition of the app, bride price uses a more specific barometer in calculating a woman’s worth; it considers her cooking abilities, complexion, whether she has tattoos, and whether she is a “prayer warrior” or “club girl”.

As would be expected, not everyone is happy with taking dowry digital.

Some women rights activists think negotiations between families are to be preferred to the indicators used for the app.

They also distance themselves from the app, which according to them, ‘attempts to objectify women’.

“You cannot put a price tag on a human being,” one activist says, adding that this only oppresses women, leading men to see them as nothing more than commodities.

They argue that the app cannot predict what kind of a person you are or what kind of a wife you would make.

Some unmarried men reportedly argue that we need to embrace the digital world in which we are living.

They see the bride price app as a “scientific” way of calculating bride price.

The lobola calculator creator says his motives were not as misogynistic, as some claim.

He says he never expected the app to get the publicity it has.

All he wanted to do, he says, was to build an app that would reflect African culture, get people talking and inject some humour in the hot topic.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION