These tech companies are “bigger” than Zimbabwe

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Google is just one of the many tech companies bigger than Zimbabwe

Google is just one of the many tech companies bigger than Zimbabwe

So with all the many economic blunders that I think our government is making including the recent closure Telecel when companies are closing everywhere and people losing their jobs, yesterday I was presented with an interesting problem.

I was watching Frank Underwood, that duplicitous, fobbing rump-fed fustilarian from the NetFlix hit show House of Cards playing tricks on the unwitting D.C types. You know Frank Underwood who thinks Chimbetu is the current Zimbabwean president.

Well somewhere in the show (in season 2) one of the arrogant billionaire types makes an interesting boast: he is so rich he can buy himself a third world country if he really set his heart and mind to it, well several countries in fact.

It is a boast that is frequently made in most U.S made big screen and small screen productions that somehow make it their goal to insult every country and culture under the sun creating stereotypes of funny Russia accents, sexy French accents, the Chinese inability to pronounce words, all Brazilians live in favelas, all Mexicans are drug dealing scum and how all Arabs are probably terrorists hell bent on destroying America.

So, when I heard the boast I started to wonder, if this was another stereotypical insult or if there  was some truth in it? So I set out on a Googling journey to find out. Being a geek who is mostly familiar with tech companies, I decided to find out how our own Zimbabwean economy measures up beside the most popular Tech companies.

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Methodology

For the sake of the comparison, I made one big assumption: I decided to treat the entire country of Zimbabwe as one big business. It kind of makes sense as a country’s macroeconomic goals are not that very different from those of most businesses. Like I always tell my students whenever I introduce them to the business world, there are several methods of measuring the size of a business.

The most popular methods used to measure and compare the sizes of businesses are: number of employees, the amount of capital invested, market capitalization, profit and turnover (revenue). Most of the methods do not lend themselves to the measurement of the size of a country’s economy.

For example, methods like the number of employees (would you include all the country’s able-bodied workforce or what?), capital invested (there is no easy way to calculate this for a country), market capitalization ( Zimbabwe does not really sell its shares on the stock exchange) nor do we really have a profit motive.

Revenue is another matter. While companies make and sell services, the size of a country’s economy is usually measured by calculating the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While rudimentary at best comparisons can be made of a company’s annual revenue vs Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product in order to gauge which is larger.

So how does Zimbabwe fare against most of the tech brands we know?

For this exercise, I decided to use figures from 2014. Out of possible list of 53 African countries for whose published data I could find online, Zimbabwe is the 26th largest economy in terms of annual GDP which stands at an estimated $13.7 billion a far cry from Nigeria’s $594 billion and South Africa’s $341 billion.

Even little Botswana and its $16 billion economy is larger than ours. “Starving” Ethiopia’s economy had a GDP of $49.8 billion, “poor” Mozambique $16.5 billion and “chaotic and warring”  Libya has a GDP of $70 billion which is not something you would believe from all the negative comments and flack these countries get from Social Media, Blogs and News sites. It’s not just Hollywood that has prejudicial views.

By comparison, the following made more money than the entire Zimbabwean economy. Samsung made a whopping $189.5 billion, Apple $182.8 billion, HP $111 billion, IBM $92 billion, Amazon.com $88.99 billion, Microsoft $86.83 billion, Sony $72.34 billion, Google $66 billion, Dell $56.94 billion, Intel $55.87 billion and LG $54.75 billion.

Do not despair though, Zimbabwe is definitely larger than Facebook and its modest revenue  which stood at around $12 billion in 2014 which is slightly less than our GDP but I would expect this to change as Facebook grows in 2015 and our economy shrinks.

To be clear this is not even close to a foolproof way of comparison but when your country’s GDP is as much as 13 times less than the annual revenue of a company it does not really matter how precise the method is because it is hard to envisage how your country’s economy can be larger even if you were to employ more accurate methods.

I also suppose this is the point where people start to talk about our natural resources and how Zimbabwe is rich with these, about how it is difficult to quantify the beauty of the Victoria Falls, or the value of the coal at Hwange, the diamonds at Chiadzwa among other things.

But these resources have little value if there remain like what they are right now: untapped potential. While we read about how companies like Google constantly keep an eye on the future as they develop new products like Google Glass, smart watches, driver-less cars and so on while we continue to stay in the agricultural past.

Image Credit: Says.com

6 Comments

  1. BTM says:

    I think we need to come to a point where we realise that as a nation we have failed.Once we all agree we can then start looking at how do we make things right.Forget the politics,forget the crumbling economy lets focus on how can we make things right.When we look at the economy we are blinded to believe that ours is a unique situation but not really . I believe other now powerful countries have been through worse scenarios.

    I am sure most will argue that we cannot attract investors e.t.c . . . same old stories just a different day.Lets give a typical example how many individuals are willing to pay for a genuine copy of microsoft office? Pause !!!!.
    Am sure i can almost get an immediate answer to that “why buy a genuine copy when i can get a pirated version”.
    Its the culture that we now have as a country.We need a major culture shift in terms of how we do business,go back to create better business ethics.As long as people and companies are not willing to pay for services rendered we can have as much investment as we can but we can never do enough to improve our country.

    Companies in Zim need to start putting a value on themselves and improve on quality and service delivery.Lets not get into business for the sake of being in business we also need to look at what value are we putting into the economy,what are our short term and long term visions,how do we compare to global competitors in the same sector.In some cases especially in the IT sector you see companies charging a 10th of what they should be actually charging for services just so they can get that contract or win a tender and at the end of the day they fail to break even.

    For companies such as Apple and google its all about the culture.They have built a culture of excellence and consistant quality service delivery and in the long run they have built customer loyalty and have created a large client base.

    Our success starts the day we stop making excuses for everything thats my story and i am sticking to it.

    lets shift our culture and our views towards business.

    1. Anonymous says:

      BTM, great commentary! Thank you for sharing.

    2. Jim says:

      Very long and boring, what we need is a serious Government that realizes that the absence of electricity in the country completely and throughly ruins business add to that inconsistent policy and personalized law enforcement will not improve the economy. We cannot have rigid Government policy that only works to ensure Zimra makes money while not creating an enabling environment for business and investment attraction. You little Johnny can only do so much, but you are certainly not responsible for all the many company closures, or potholes on the road, or poor railway service, or absence of local currency? Maybe you are, tell me how? Stop being so childish and naive, this is a country not your mamma’s little tuck shop. It’s a whole different ball game, if you don’t understand stuff, kindly shut up and let adults talk

      1. nyowani says:

        relax Jim. As much as you may have valid points to bring to the table, may I suggest that you sit down first and acknowledge everyone’s presence by show of respect. The story gives us a perspective of where we are so we can map where to go and the comments are mere suggestions to start up the conversation of our journey. Don’t be so hard on yourself. BTM! I’m with you.

  2. G says:

    great insights. just shows the potential that true entrepreneurship can do to a counties economic trajectory. if zimbabwe could have even 1 google like startup that could have the growth trajectory that google had our economy would be transformed.

  3. Lee Kuan Yew says:

    Singapore is the size of Harare and has an economy worth 400 Billion Dollars yet ours is just over 13 Billion Dollars, Malaysia is slightly smaller than Zimbabwe and has an Econmy worth 370 Billion and is thw worlds 12th most competitive Economy

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