Mbiti, in African Religion and Philosophy, writing about dowry, bride price or bride gift writes
This marriage gift is an important institution in African societies. It is a token of gratitude on the part of groom’s people to those of the bride, for their care of over her and allowing her to become his wife. At her home the gift ‘replaces’ her….. The gifts elevates the value attached to her both as a person and as a wife.
which if read together with
[…]In others, the bridegroom (and his relatives) must in addition contribute labour; and in matricidal societies the man lives with his parents in-law working for them for some years in order to ‘earn’ his wife.
contradicts the claim that
Under no circumstance is this custom a form of ‘payment’, as outsiders have so often mistakenly said.
And on virginity he writes
The blood of virginity is the symbol that life has been preserved, that the spring of life has not already been flowing wastefully, and that both the girl and her relatives have preserved the sanctity of human reproduction. Only marriage may shed this sacred blood, for in so doing it unlocks the door for members of the family in the loins to come forward and join both the living and the living-dead.
Virginity symbolises purity not only of body but also of moral life; and a virgin bride is the greatest glory and crown to her parents, husband and relatives.
As you weigh in below, does your culture dictate bride price? And how does it treat female virginity?