Technology and Tendai

Photo by Marc Shoul for Monocle

Trying to arrange an interview with Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Tendai Biti, wasn’t easy. Emails and phone calls to PAs and finance ministry colleagues went unanswered. Then a friend passed me his mobile number. There was no answer but I sent a text. Less than a minute later, Biti replied. It took a further two texts to set up a time and place.

The interview, which you can read in the new issue of Monocle, went well. He talked about his relationship with Robert Mugabe, why the West should provide Zimbabwe with aid, and how he managed to bring inflation down from 500 billion per cent to less than one.

But he got most excited when talking about technology. Biti spent two weeks in prison in 2008 after being accused of treason. On his release his wife gave him an iPhone as a coming home present. There are few places in Harare he can use it though. It is one of the few capitals in Africa with no GPRS or 3G network.

At first, Biti couldn’t even use it in his own office. When he took over the finance ministry there was no internet connection. One of the first things he did was install a WiFi network for on his floor. Now he’s on his iPhone all the time.

Which is great if you ever want to set up an interview with him.

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