They say history never repeats itself – but it sure does rhyme.
In a move that can best be compared to the way large parts and populations of Africa and India were divided up and dished out to the management of private firms, such as the British and Dutch East India companies in the 17th and 18th centuries; Zimbabwe’s embattled military government has decided to delegate the governance of its citizens to the Chinese tech giant, Alipay.
Under the new deal, Zimbabwean citizens will each be allocated a Sesame Credit Score, linked to a digital identity stored and maintained on a vast Alipay database. The scores and identities will be linked to Zimbabwe’s (latest) national currency to help crack down on tax avoidance. The now fully digital E-Zim-bond has replaced the country’s previous bond notes earlier this year, after yet another cycle of disastrous hyper-inflation.
As part of the deal, Alipay will invest in labour and infrastructure, including facial recognition systems, artificial intelligence, and wireless internet connectivity imported from China, to help administer and police the new system.
In exchange, Zimbabwe will hand over the day to day management of its citizens, including border control, criminal justice processing and policing, assorted home affairs functions, welfare payments and tax collection (minus a handsome share of the tax revenues collected, of course) to the Chinese multinational.
Says ZANU-PF spokesperson Charles Chipinda: “We have realized that our core strengths, as the ruling party, lie in the more important matters of executive politics and parliament; and not in the lower-level matters of day to day governance. We are confident this revolutionary system is in the best interests of the party – and of the people of Zimbabwe.”
The phrase “digital natives” is certainly not without irony these days.