I was briefly following, this week, a discussion of the cost of lobola, the bride-price in Southern Africa. The cost is a challenge to many suitors, and is said to come in the way of the healthy development of relationships -- not to speak of the (sometimes tough or protracted) negotiations which lie behind the cost. Having negotiated lobola myself, I tend to agree with Alan Tiley, an expert on African culture: "The ramifications of lobola system has tremendous advantages for both parties." Consider the cost of the wedding alone. Before my wedding, I sat with my financial adviser, and he advised me of the cost of a modest European wedding. Lobola was the single biggest payment I made in getting married. However, my generosity was amply repaid. I was provided with two big feasts for nothing, among many other things, and the all-inclusive cost for me was one-third below that of the modest European wedding. Subtract the lobola, and it was half. This was due to the joy and generosity of the family that I married into (I could say families, as my wife's employer was very generous, too). OBSERVATION: So the cost of lobola is really just one isolated element of a marriage by African custom.