I spent some hours online today, looking for a laptop in Holland. Tawanda his laptop got stolen a while ago, here at the SRC offices. He got money back through a Dutch insurance policy (the laptop actually belonged to a Dutch guy living in Mutare) and now he's looking to buy a new PC.
Getting it here, in Harare, is not an option. A reasonable laptop will set you back Z$14mln, about $3500, more than twice the actual price. So Tawanda wants someone to buy it for him in the Netherlands and have someone take it along to Harare, when flying in. The only deal I could find was a Jewel notebook at 950 euros. Later, however, through a friend of his, he found a laptop at $600 euros. I'm quite interested to see what the cat will drag in.
When Tawanda and I visited a computer store today, I learned that PCs are overpriced a lot. Also, surprisingly, even the technical guys don't seem to be able to answer simple questions like maximum screen resolutions. None of the quotes also contain that information as everyone seems to be focused on the size of the hard disk. "Yeah, my PC was slow", Tawanda said today, referring to his stolen laptop, 'it only had 5 gigs'.
Trying to get the process going for obtaining hardware needed to set up the internal network, I was reminded of the fact that Africans prefer talking about procedures than actually doing something. Not so much because they don't like to do something, it's very important to get the procedures right, because when you work according to procedures, no one will be offended. Everyone needs to be consulted and has to have his or her say, so that everyone can raise possible issues that need to be addressed before continuing.
Needless to say, getting something done takes ages. Solutions aren't discussed. Rather, procedures are discussed that, when followed, are assumed to automatically lead to the right solutions.
Not trying to offend anyone also results in these people not being able to make decisions. If you have to choose between A and B and choose B, everyone who chose A might be offended.