Accessibility links

Breaking News

Business and Technology

Zimbabwe Loses $1 Billion Annually to Smuggling

FILE - An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, Mozambique near the border with Zimbabwe on September 19, 2010.
FILE - An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, Mozambique near the border with Zimbabwe on September 19, 2010.

Already reeling from a deep economic decline due to COVID-19, Zimbabwe is losing up to $1 billion in revenue from smuggling along its porous borders, according to industry leaders and government officials.

According to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, the sharp revenue decline is due to lax customs and security systems, corruption among top government officials, and inefficiency in revenue collection.

As the country's economy declines, smuggling has become the only means of survival and jobs even as the state loses out on desperately needed revenue.

Along the Limpopo River, smugglers set up camps as clearing houses for receiving and distributing smuggled goods from South Africa. They are sent into Zimbabwe through ferries, inflatable boats and rafts in the river.

Tichaona Nyongo, the officer commanding officer at the Beitbridge district border post, said Zimbabweans are using creative ways to smuggle goods into the country.

"Even donkey carts are being used to smuggle goods," he said.

Wide-range of smiggling

The smugglers allege that security personnel accept bribes to allow smuggling. Some farms on the border are also used as departure points.

A smuggler told Zimbabwe Business that "the protection fee is now high, about 200 rand ($12) a trip. It used to be half that, but this route is now popular since closure of the border."

FILE - Trucks headed for Zimbabwe are seen near the Beitbride border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe on March 28, 2008.
FILE - Trucks headed for Zimbabwe are seen near the Beitbride border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe on March 28, 2008.

Reports say Zimbabweans are being smuggled in and out of South Africa for a reported fee of 2,000 rand ($120).

Takunda Mugaga, the chamber's top executive, blamed a lack of infrastructure and a low production of goods in the country as a driving force behind smuggling and corruption.

“There are sub-standard products being sold below the cost of production and government is being short-changed in terms of revenue,” he said.

Mugaga blamed inconsistent government policies for fueling inflation and corruption.

“At one point the government banned second-hand tire imports but we continued to see the products in the market,” he said, adding the underground economy depends on smuggling.

Government response urged

Faith Mazani, the commissioner of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, said the government needs to do more to plug loopholes in revenue generation and collection.

“There is an urgent need to allocate more funds towards improving efficiency of border systems in line with global business trends,” she said.

Mazani said modernizing infrastructures would reverse the current declining economic fortunes of the country.

“These is need to digitalize operations at the borders," she said. "There is also the need for border patrols along the Limpopo River to curb smuggling."

Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube told the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper that the government is determined to deal with “deficiencies in customs procedures, border control, and to curb leakage in revenue.”

Zimbabwe relies on customs duty as its largest source of revenue to pay for workers’ salaries, run government offices and key programs.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Zimbabwe faces a long road to economic recovery following decades of corruption and mismanagement of the country’s resources.

please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:52 0:00



See all News Updates of the Day

Africa News Tonight: Food Aid Reaches Darfur, Botswana Calls for Change in Diamond Certification, DRC Has First Female Prime Minister

Africa News Tonight: Food Aid Reaches Darfur, Botswana Calls for Change in Diamond Certification, DRC Has First Female Prime Minister
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:55 0:00
Direct link

Meta Closes Monitoring Tool for Disinformation, Fact-Checking

FILE—People walk behind a Meta Platforms logo during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023.
FILE—People walk behind a Meta Platforms logo during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023.

WASHINGTON—A digital tool considered vital in tracking viral falsehoods, CrowdTangle will be decommissioned by Facebook owner Meta in a major election year, a move researchers fear will disrupt efforts to detect an expected firehose of political misinformation.

The tech giant says CrowdTangle will be unavailable after August 14, less than three months before the US election. The Palo Alto company plans to replace it with a new tool that researchers say lacks the same functionality, and which news organizations will largely not have access to.

For years, CrowdTangle has been a game-changer, offering researchers and journalists crucial real-time transparency into the spread of conspiracy theories and hate speech on influential Meta-owned platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Killing off the monitoring tool, a move experts say is in line with a tech industry trend of rolling back transparency and security measures, is a major blow as dozens of countries hold elections this year -- a period when bad actors typically spread false narratives more than ever.

"In a year where almost half of the global population is expected to vote in elections, cutting off access to CrowdTangle will severely limit independent oversight of harms," Melanie Smith, director of research at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told AFP.

"It represents a grave step backwards for social media platform transparency."

Meta is set to replace CrowdTangle with a new Content Library, a technology still under development.

It's a tool that some in the tech industry, including former CrowdTangle chief executive Brandon Silverman, said is currently not an effective replacement, especially in elections likely to see a proliferation of AI-enabled falsehoods.

"It's an entire new muscle" that Meta is yet to build to protect the integrity of elections, Silverman told AFP, calling for "openness and transparency."

'Direct threat'

In recent election cycles, researchers say CrowdTangle alerted them to harmful activities including foreign interference, online harassment and incitements to violence.

By its own admission, Meta — which bought CrowdTangle in 2016 — said that in 2019 elections in Louisiana, the tool helped state officials identify misinformation, such as inaccurate poll hours that had been posted online.

In the 2020 presidential vote, the company offered the tool to US election officials across all states to help them "quickly identify misinformation, voter interference and suppression."

The tool also made dashboards available to the public to track what major candidates were posting on their official and campaign pages.

Lamenting the risk of losing these functions forever, global nonprofit Mozilla Foundation demanded in an open letter to Meta that CrowdTangle be retained at least until January 2025.

"Abandoning CrowdTangle while the Content Library lacks so much of CrowdTangle's core functionality undermines the fundamental principle of transparency," said the letter signed by dozens of tech watchdogs and researchers.

The new tool lacks CrowdTangle features including robust search flexibility and decommissioning it would be a "direct threat" to the integrity of elections, it added.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said the letter's claims are "just wrong," insisting the Content Library will contain "more comprehensive data than CrowdTangle" and be made available to academics and non-profit election integrity experts.

'Lot of concerns'

Meta, which has been moving away from news across its platforms, will not make the new tool accessible to for-profit media.

Journalists have used CrowdTangle in the past to investigate public health crises as well as human rights abuses and natural disasters.

Meta's decision to cut off journalists comes after many used CrowdTangle to report unflattering stories, including its flailing moderation efforts and how its gaming app was overrun with pirated content.

CrowdTangle has been a crucial source of data that helped "hold Meta accountable for enforcing its policies," Tim Harper, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told AFP.

Organizations that debunk misinformation as part of Meta's third-party fact-checking program, including AFP, will have access to the Content Library.

But other researchers and nonprofits will have to apply for access or look for expensive alternatives. Two researchers told AFP under condition of anonymity that in one-on-one meetings with Meta officials, they demanded firm commitments from company officials.

"While most fact-checkers already working with Meta will have access to the new tool, it's not super clear if many independent researchers — already worried about losing CrowdTangle's functionality — will," Carlos Hernandez-Echevarria, head of the Spanish nonprofit Maldita, told AFP.

"It has generated a lot of concerns."

Africa News Tonight: Biden Express Concerns to Israeli PM, Zimbabweans Face Hunger, South Africa’s Top Diplomat Visits U.S. to Boost Ties

Africa News Tonight: Biden Express Concerns to Israeli PM, Zimbabweans Face Hunger, South Africa’s Top Diplomat Visits U.S. to Boost Ties
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:55 0:00
Direct link

Africa News Tonight: Aid Blockades Endanger People in Burkina Faso, AI Creates Election Worries, Namibia Fights Cancer with HPV Vaccine

Africa News Tonight: Aid Blockades Endanger People in Burkina Faso, AI Creates Election Worries, Namibia Fights Cancer with HPV Vaccine
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:56 0:00
Direct link

Africa News Tonight: Niger Ends U.S. Troops Deal, Major Internet Outage Hits Africa, Aid Group Saya Food Security Priority for Some Nations

Africa News Tonight: Niger Ends U.S. Troops Deal, Major Internet Outage Hits Africa, Aid Group Saya Food Security Priority for Some Nations
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:56 0:00
Direct link

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG