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post Globalisation & Africa

April 13th, 2008

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 22:37

Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa

Introduction
Given the historical relationship between Africa and the West it is ironic that the latter is today preaching the virtues of freedom to Africans. Former colonisers and ex-slave-owners have made a virtue of championing political and economic liberalisation. Yesterday’s oppressors appear to be today’s liberators, fighting for democracy, human rights and free market economies throughout the world.

The concept of globalisation is global and dominant in the world today. But, it was not handed down from heaven, it was not decreed by the Pope, it did not emerge spontaneously. It was created by the dominant social forces in the world today to serve their specific interests. Simultaneously these social forces gave themselves a new ideological name the - “international community” - to go with the idea of globalisation.

Globalisation…has largely been driven by the interests and needs of the developed world (Grieco and Holmes, 1999)

Globalisation has turned the world into the big village… This in turn has led to intense electronic corporate commercial war to get the attention and nod of the customer globally…This war for survival can only get more intense in the new millenium. Are we prepare(d) to face the realities of this global phenomenon, which has the potential of wiping out industrial enterprise in Nigeria (and Africa)? What can we (or do we) do?

It is needless to distractedly search for any premise other than the foregoing to commence the analytical examination of the holocaust effects of globalisation particularly as it concerns the African continent. It should be stated, however, that the extent of these effects as well as the coping ability/capacity of its victims are explainable within the context of human history, which, on its own has not been static, and which had continuously evolved with the society itself over the years. In the course of this evolution, various developments and changes had taken place. These changes or developments had, in most cases, affected the systemic existence of humankind per se regardless of the geo-political location within the universe.

One of such changes or developments that is currently affecting the physiology of human society today through its imposition of constraints on the policy-making autonomy or independence of member states vis-à-vis their capacities for the authoritative allocation of scarce and critical societal values or resources among other functions, is globalisation. As a result of its combination of “destructive leviathan” and improved material well-being of humankind, globalisation has continued to attract increased scholarly and analytical attention across the globe. It is, thus, not fortuitous that globalisation has been at the epicentre of most developmental and intellectual discourses.

This is not unconnected with the fact that world developments have been increasingly characterised not by their growth dynamics but by their links to the process of globalisation. Hence, the overwhelming character of globalisation has made it compelling for some scholars to use various aspects of the global economy as units of analysis.

The Concept OF Globalisation
Globalisation refers to the process of the intensification of economic, political, social and cultural relations across international boundaries. It is principally aimed at the transcendental homogenization of political and socio-economic theory across the globe. It is equally aimed at “making global being present worldwide at the world stage or global arena”. It deals with the “increasing breakdown of trade barriers and the increasing integration of World market once opined: Globalisation can be seen as an evolution which is systematically restructuring interactive phases among nations by breaking down barriers in the areas of culture, commerce, communication and several other fields of endeavour.

This is evident from its push of free-market economics, liberal democracy, good governance, gender equality and environmental sustainability among other holistic values for the people of the member states.

The process of globalisation is impelled by the series of cumulative and conjunctural crises in the international division of labour and the global distribution of economic and political power; in global finance, in the functioning of national states and in the decline of the Keynesian welfare state and the established social contact between labour and government. In fact, its hallmark of free-market capitalism has been aided among other factors by the sudden though expected changes within the physiology of global political community in recent times.

Within the parameters of the foregoing, globalisation could be correctly defined from the institutional perspective as the spread of capitalism. However, it is germane to adumbrate that the collapse of the Eastern block in the late 80s and early 90s led to the emergence and ascendancy of a global economy that is primarily structured and governed by the interests of Western behemoth countries, thus, facilitating the integration of most economies into the global capitalist economy. With the demise of the Eastern Europe in the early 90s, capitalism as an economic system now dominates the globe more than it had been at any time in its history. Even, China, by far the largest non-capitalist economy, has undergone dramatic changes in its international economic policy orientation, and, is today the recipient of almost one-half of all foreign direct investments that go into developing nations - this is a country that essentially blocked all foreign investments until the 1980s. Beyond this simplistic analysis of globalisation in terms of capital inflows and trade investment, it is important to state that it has been of disastrous consequences to the governments and people of the African continent.

Globalisation, according to Ohiorhenuan, is the broadening and deepening linkages of national economies into a worldwide market for goods and services, especially capital. As Tandon once opined, globalisation seeks to remove all national barriers to the free movement of international capital and this process is accelerated and facilitated by the supersonic transformation in information technology. It is principally aimed at the universal homogenisation of ideas, cultures, values and even life styles as well as, at the deterritorialisation and villagization of the world. Expanding this argument, argued, that it is principally concerned with the expansion of trade over the oceans and airspace, beyond traditional alliances which were restricted by old political spheres of influence. Thus, it presupposes the “making or remaking” of the world by creating “a basic change in the way in which major actors think and operate across the globe”. In other words, it connotes “the rapid expansion through giant multinational companies of capitalism and their “blood sapping principles” of “liberalisation”, “commercialisation”, privatisation” and “undemocratic and property-based democratisation” to several areas of the world including where it had hitherto been resisted or put in check”.

Very critical to our understanding of globalisation is the dire need to use it as a synonym for liberalisation and greater openness. The implication of this is that both domestic and foreign liberalization are said to imply globalisation, since the former brings domestic markets more in conformity with forces operating in markets abroad, and, the removal of administrative barriers to international movement of goods, services, labour and capital increases economic interaction among nations. It is within this purview that we can argue that globalisation is mainly a phenomenon of capital mobility. Its two prongs are: (i) Foreign direct investment and (ii) international portfolio flows. Thus, a global economy is one which is dominated by transnational firms and financial institutions, operating independently of national boundaries and domestic economic considerations. The implication of deterritorialisation for African countries is that world goods, factors of production and financial assets would be almost perfect substitutes everywhere in the world. Hence, it could be difficult to identify a national economy and consider nation states as distinct economic identities with autonomous decision making power in the pursuit of national objectives. This, indeed, explains why the IMF issued a query to Nigeria in respect of over 400 billion naira meant for capital expenditure in the 2001 budget, and, why the IMF and World Bank (two bodies that are driving forces of globalisation) contributed enourmously in the drafting of the Nigeria’s 2001 budget.

Another important feature of globalisation is that, it enhances the volume of international trade and investment, which is a reflection of the global patten of specialisation in production (i.e. the international division of labour). Though, there is an increase in the volume of goods among nations, international trade continues to be largely concentrated in developed countries (i.e. Trade continues to exist between economies at the same level of economic development). For example, in 1992, 56% of world trade was among developed countries, virtually unchanged from its 1970 level. In the same year, 77% of developed countries imports originated from other developed countries, compared to 78% in 1970. Thus, trade between the developed and developing world as measured by the share of developing countries exports in total developed countries imports has been stable, varying around 30% since 1970, although the rise in oil prices in the 1970s brought a temporary increase. However, trade among developing countries has been a relatively constant share of total trade, although, there has been a rise in intra-Latin American trade. Central to our discourse is that, globalisation is also about international division of labour which might be broadly characterised by the skill intensity of production, with developed countries increasingly specialising in high - skill intensive manufacturing and services and, developing countries in low - skill intensive manufacturing. This asymmetry has severe and devastating impacts on African economies since they are primarily to produce raw materials for industries in the developed countries who, eventually, produce goods and dump them in developing countries as a result of liberalisation - a critical component of globalisation.

There is no doubt whatsoever that globalisation is one of the most challenging developments in the world history. As Tandon once opined, “globalisation in its most generic and broad sense is part of the movement of history”. In other words, globalisation which is an “imperial policy” and the “final conquest of capital over the rest of the World”, is deeply rooted in history and quite explainable within the context of the one -arm banditry and exploitative antecedents of capitalism which, by its nature cannot exist without parasitic expansion.

Given the changing faces and phases of globalisation and its immutable central and primary focus to exploit African resources, disintegrate its economies and incorporate it into the international capitalist economy, it is imperative to emphasise that, the different conceptions, notions and treatment of globalisation by scholars are not incompatible with one another. The limitation of these conceptions, notions and treatments, however, is that, it does not describe the sudden yet significant shifts in the world economy, but, rather, simply the continuation of longer term trends. Rather, the new development which seems to connect these different strands is that an increased pace of capital mobility has begun to shift the prospects for economic development and growth to the global level - an indication of the expropriation of surplus and capital flight from the African economies.

Its History And Instruments
Globalisation is not a new feature of the world economy. The era before the First World War was one in which strong globalisation tendencies produced a very uneven pattern of global economic development, exposing the limits of global economic integration. For example, the integration of the African economy into the capitalist economy is part of the globalising tendencies of capitalism. Thus, colonialism provided a legal framework for the dependence of the African economy on the economy of western countries. Thus, the African economy became producers of raw materials for industries in advanced capitalist societies.

Historically, the process of globalisation had started in a small way in the nineteenth century. This was when capital moved from Europe to open up new areas in America and Australia, mostly in the building of rail road systems and agriculture that would be central to the expansion of capitalism.

The subsequent maturation of joint-stock companies and developments in the areas of banking, industrial capital and technology, aided among other things, the scramble for and partitioning of Africa and, its then attendant rapacious exploitation of these parts of the World. Even though, the pre-eminence of globalisation as championed by America was interrupted by the cold war era, with the effective end of the latter in 1990, the West no longer need to compromise as before, its ideology of globalized culture on the account of communism.

Consequent on this, the global economy continued to experience some fundamental changes in nearly all ramifications including “even the language of global discourse”. This trend is currently being pursued with vigour by the now acclaimed instruments, of globalisation. These instruments - ((a) the reformed old Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank), (b) World Trade organisation and (c) the G8) - according to Banjo are the “Wicked Machines of the Imperialists”, which completely have their pedigrees in the ideological frameworks of the West and its monopolistic view of what the World should look like. This is particularly so because:

The rules and regulations of these three agencies of imperialism are fundamentally unfair to working and poor people around the world. The private corporation and other financial interest whose interests are devilish are able to dominate the “rules of the game” in the international economy with adverse results on the health and welfare of hundreds of millions of people.

Any characterisation of globalisation that excludes the roles of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will be too reductionist since the primary goal of globalisation is the issue of global capital. In this direction, the IMF and the World Bank have played crucial roles in the enthronement of global capital. This has been done through policies such as liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation. In respect of liberalisation which is a process of removing artificial restrictions on production, exchange or use of goods, services and factors of production, there has been a liberalisation of international trade and factor movements which are necessary conditions for firms to globalise. Indeed, firms, National Companies play crucial roles since the logic of private enterprise is the drive for profits, the movement of firms and capital across borders in pursuit of profits is inherent in the expansion of firms. Thus, economic activity could not be global without the capacity of business to operate simultaneously in more than one country, but the unique capacity for organisational flexibility and integration that characterises many transnational corporations today, serves as a driving force for globalisation.

As for privatisation, it has deepened the integration of African countries into the global systems of production and finance by encouraging capital inflows and bringing foreign ownership of formerly public - owned enterprises. It is imperative to observe that, this international dispersion of ownership has been asymmetric: the privatisation policy in the African countries has attracted capital from the developed countries, but it has disbursed ownership mainly to domestic residents in the developed countries.

The protagonists of globalisation with the collaboration of their “puppets’ cat’s paws” and “butt lickers” in various developing countries, have, through these instruments, continued to consistently, through cosmetic and mouth -watering entreaties, lure developing countries (particularly in African continent) into the “Villagized World” without much guarantee of equality and fairness in the asymmetrical game-play involved. They have been doing this by laying irresistible emphases on the advantages of science and technology particularly in the areas of “internet-connectivity”, “new information communication technologies” “customization” “internet-based cybermall”, and, “modernised agriculture” and, its propensity for “transparency” and reduction of the problems of hunger and possible stoppage of Africa’s food crisis.

The wholesale acceptance of globalisation as a saviour of the developing countries particularly those in Africa, has been likened to that of a moving train which Africa and Africans must keep pace with, regardless of whether the latter has similar destination in mind, because, Africa no choice. This analogy is especially pernicious when one takes a close look at the debilitating effects of globalisation itself. The analogy asserts that the developing countries have no choice but to keep in step. But, this is not true. Rather than looking at globalisation in a humanistic manner, this line of thinking is a mere plastering of wounds, and, a product of Eurocentric teleology: and equation of a twisted ideal with an unhealthy reality, an equation of westernization with civilisation and the pinnacle of development. To the contrary, Africa and Africans have a choice. One of the choices is the creation of a blockade on the “path of the train”. In other words, the African continent and, indeed, other developing countries could conceivably create Regional Economic and Political blocks equal in magnitude and potency with that of the European Union (EU), to effectively challenge, and influence the trajectory of the globalisation train. To argue otherwise is to lead Africa and Africans along the path of extinction. Nevermore can there be a Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885 and its subsequent genocidal partitioning of Africa and Africans by the colonialists.

Indeed, the globalisation of technology promotes the globalisation of production and finance, by spurring the dissemination of information and lowering the cost of linking markets internationally. The globalisation of technology has created rapidly rising numbers of global consumers. In fact, Africa has been turned into a dumping ground where people increasingly consume an abundance of products that have little connection to their struggle for existence (for example, Literature, Movies, Music). This, indeed, has led to the obliteration of African culture leading to a Eurocentric view of the realities Africans perceive. Further, this helps explain why some Africans don’t understand their own history, but they can write history in favour of Europe.

It must be clear at this point, that the current villagization of the world, as globalisation, has greatly (negatively) affected the developing countries (particularly those in Africa) in nearly all facets of life. The examination of the nature and scope of these effects, their implications and consequences for Africa, forms the core of the discussion below.

Globalisation’s Problems and
Consequences for the States in Africa

To begin with, even though, globalisation as Ohiorhenuan (1998 op cit.), Mowlana (1998), and Oyejide (1998) Grieco and Holmes (1999) respectively opined, is a positive or powerful force for the improved material well-being of humankind, that would aid developing countries to “create better economic environments”, to “leapfrog” into the information age; improve their access to technology; speed development and enhance global harmony”, its effects on the political, economic, social and cultural nerves of the weaker member states cannot be ignored without severe consequences. In other words, the seeming near-consensus on the agenda of globalisation notwithstanding, the unrelenting encouragement of its “uneven thesis” does not give room for comfort as, it is exorbitantly costly to the developing nations. This is particularly so in that, globalisation affects developmental thinking and actions of the developing polities; relegates ethical equity and social concerns behind market consideration and reduces the autonomy of the independence states. According to Ohiorhenuan (op. cit), it challenges the mediative role of the state vis-à-vis external pressures. It threatens the discretion of the state everywhere. Not only this, according to Tandon, globalisation encourages “decreasing National control and increasing control over the (Internal) economy (of the state) by outside players. In fact, the gospel of globalisation through its economic liberalism “has been elevated to the position of absolute truth, a sort of pensee unique (or single theory) against which there is no credible alternative”. Indeed, globalisation is an awesome and terrifying phenomenon for African countries.

Concretely put, the planetary phenomenon of globalisation is nothing but a new order of marginalisation of the African continent. Its universalization of communication, mass production, market exchanges and redistribution, rather than engendering new ideas and developmental orientation in Africa, subverts its autonomy and powers of self-determination. It is rather by design than by accident that poverty has become a major institution in Africa despite this continent’s stupendous resources. Indeed, the developing countries/world burden of external debt has reached two trillion dollars (World Bank, 1994). In the process, it has enlivened the venomous potency of mass poverty and, its accompanying multidimensional depravity of the citizenry of all the requisite essence of meaningful living. It has disintegrated or disarticulated the industrial sector of most, if not all polities in Africa. This has been particularly evident in the areas of cost of production which has become uncomfortably high in most of the developing countries (e.g. Nigeria); also in the lack of government’s incentives to encourage local production; subversion of local products through high importation, currency devaluation; and depletion of foreign reserves. This clearly raises the problems of marginalization which, according to Ake, is, in reality, the dynamics of under development - the development of under development by the agents of development.

Nation-states in Africa today, rarely define the rules and regulations of their economy, production, credits and exchanges of goods and services due to the rampaging menace of globalisation. They are hardly now capable of volitionally managing their political, economic and socio-cultural development. Globalisation It has imposed heavy constraints on the internal management dynamics of most if not all the polities in Africa (e.g., Nigeria) where the government now finds it difficulty in most cases to meet the genuine demands of the governed on many issues of national urgency (e.g., the June 1st, 2000, 50% hike in the prices of petroleum and related products and its attendant crippling national strike by the Nigerian workers). The reality in Nigeria today, as it is for most African nations, is that globalisation has made it immensely difficult for governments to provide social insurance - one of their central functions and one that has helped many developed nations to maintain social cohesion and domestic political support. Trends like this have been largely dictated by the asymmetry of powers that accompany globalisation (i.e., inequality in the status of the members of the “villagized world” and, their inability to resist imposed policy options). In fact, this asymmetry which is undergirded by a system of production where capital rules has been clearly amplified by Madunagu when he claimed that: the result of globalisation in Africa, is basically a competition between the palatial centres (Developed World) and the slums (Africa) of the village where a preponderant majority of the people daily sink deeper into poverty and misery.

Consequently, its (globalisation) ideology of “free-market liberalism and property-based democracy remains a continuous licence for cultural imperialism and, the institutionalisation of both political and economic domination and exploitation of the weaker partners (i.e. the developing economies) through their internal agents.

This imperialistic cultural dimension of globalisation, particularly in the area of “internet connectivity” which has often been used as a bait for luring Africa and other developing polities into the villagized world, has recently been put into perspective thus: The world is gradually moving in a unidirectional manner and, the tendency towards uniformity has never been so appealing as it is now…. Consequently, there is a serious concern that nations like Nigeria whose contributions to the internet pool is low may lose their identity.

According to this perspective, if this trend continues: A sort of cultural imperialism which will seek to enslave the African mind, leaving in its wake a cultureless or culturally disoriented people (may become a permanent feature of Africa and or people (Emphasis mine).

This fear has been greatly highlighted by the effects which Internet use already has on the language of most polities of the world according to the survey of the global reach diagrammatically shown below:

Looking at the foregoing, it is apparent that, the globalisation process is more symmetrical to the “origin and development of the neo-colonial states (in Africa)” which were “determined by the nature and structures of the colonising countries” rather than according to a concretely established philosophy or determination to get Africa out of lingering crises. Thus, globalisation is a form of entrapment for Africa. Apart from its evocation of powerlessness already analysed, it creates a process through which the “poor countries (in Africa) are dominated and exploited by the rich countries and, a vicious circle of vulnerability of African governments” to outside parasitic economic manoeuvring as does the lack of capacity for independence of socio-political, cultural and psychological thinking relative to concrete actions. Unless, as earlier stated, its one-arm banditry is understood, concretely discerned and checkmated, globalisation will lead Africa to “increased penury”. This can be better understood in the context of the fact that, the “heavy burden of foreign debt has greatly eroded their capacity to run their own affairs and respond to the demands of the people”. This unwholesome development has created a legitimacy crisis for most African governments and turned the African continent into an Empire of Chaos.

Generally, globalisation has become a “threat to the poor rather than an opportunity for global action to eradicate poverty”. Arguing further, Obadina contends that the “concept of absolute freedom that underlies the rationale for globalisation is the same notion” used to justify slavery and colonisation. It is equally anchored on the “belief that the strong, however defined, should be free to exercise their strength without moral or legal limitations that protect the weak”. Thus, it is distinct from positive freedom which states that: People should be free as long as they do not deny the rights and freedom of others. People should not be at liberty to deny others freedom and basic rights. There must be limits on freedom otherwise the liberty of the powerful becomes the oppression of the weak.

Given the foregoing, Obadina, argued that the free-market undertone of globalisation is anchored in “greed and ethos of winner takes all” and a “beggar their neighbour” philosophy irrespective of its seeming moral terms of freedom and, this, in itself, has increased the debt burden of most countries in Africa. He summed his position thus: Western relations with (the) undeveloped countries are not predicated on a desire to eradicate mass poverty but on the penchant to impose the free-market system founded on the notion of absolute freedom.

The foregoing is even more absurd given the fact that, these same western nations that are clamouring for respect for human rights and fundamental freedom are at the same time pushing for globalisation and economic policies that encourage the abuse of these rights including the denial of the right to economic equality. The predicaments of the people of the Niger Delta (particularly Ogoni people) in Nigeria offer a case in point.

These predicaments are explicable within the context of the (deliberate) inability of the Nigerian government to equitably protect the interests and environment of the people of the Niger Delta particularly the oppressed Ogoni people from the rapaciousness of the forces of globalisation (ably represented by the multinational oil companies).

This is evident from the fact that oil exploration has negatively affected the environment of the Niger Delta and, the Ogoni people in particular, leading to a worsening socio-economic situation for the people. In fact, more than 2 million barrels of oil are explored from the Niger Delta daily.

Concretely put, despite the immense contributions of the Niger Delta (particularly the Ogoni people) to the fiscal basis of the Nigerian State as well as to global capital, the area remains basically underdeveloped due to deliberate neglect and eclipsing from the rational policy agenda of the Nigerian State. The area continuously lacks basic infrastructural facilities such as good roads, schools, electricity, communications, hospitals and so on. In addition, oil spills have drastically affected the supply of potable water, leading to the high prevalence of water-borne diseases. Also, the impact of the exploratory and extractive activities of these global forces – Shell whose operation in Nigeria alone accounts for 14% of its total global operations, Mobil Agrip, Cheveron, Texaco, Total, etc. – have basically affected the social organization of the Ogoni people and the Niger Delta in general.

A manifestation of these negative impacts is the replacement of the traditional economy that was founded on fishing, farming and hunting for economic sustenance with a petrol-dollar economy. Thus, as the World Bank (1995) noted, the impact of oil exploration in the Niger Delta Area (particularly in the Ogoni Communities) by the forces of globalisation has decreased agricultural productivity and fishing in the areas, leading to the prevalence of poverty which was put above the national average.

The attempts by the people of the Niger Delta and, the Ogoni people to challenge the inhuman and mindless capitalistic wastage of their marine life and environment through series of mass protests and attacks on the forces of globalisation have been smothered by the Nigerian State using the instruments of coercion, repression, intimidation and unjustifiable killing of the leaders of the oppressed. The unnecessary and avoidable supreme price through hanging which Kenule saro-wiwa and eight other Ogoni Environmentalists were made to pay in 1995 offers a useful explanation of the predicaments under reference here. These inhuman measures were embarked upon ostensibly to continuously generate capital for developing needs, debts (re)negotiation and, to ensure that the process of capital accumulation is not altered against neo-colonial compradors. These developments have created renewed determination by the people to prevent further degradation of their eco-system hence, the constant conflicts between them and the Nigerian State on the one hand and, the multinational oil companies on the other hand. These conflicts and the predicaments of the Ogoni people continue to persist because the Niger Delta and its resources (oil) are significant to the existence of the Nigerian Nation and its economy. Oil has become and, largely remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, accounting for 25% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 90% of foreign exchange earnings and more than 70% of budgetary expenditure. It (oil) is the most strategic commodity on which Nigeria’s attempts at industrial capitalist development is dependent hence, the Nigerian State found it difficult to lose the resources to such agitations regardless of their rationality.

The determination of the Nigerian State to maintain the status quo in this regard, despite its accompanying problems of legitimation occasioned by domestic crises, depicts its renter status and, relegation to the sphere of dependence on collection of - (externally realized) – oil rents for reproduction rather engaging in productive service(s). It equally depicts the continuous rapaciousness of the forces of globalisation in their quest for the critical needs - (e.g. oil) - of the G8 Countries in the Ogoni area of the Nigerian polity. Indeed, the dominance of the forces of globalisation in the Niger Delta areas of Nigeria accounts for the incidence of mass pauperisation in the midst of affluence.

There is no doubt that globalisation has “created a vast chasm between the North and the South” (Tandon 1998 op cit. 3). This is particularly identifiable from the UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1996 contains the fact that: The gap in per capital income between the industrial and developing worlds tripled from $5,700 in 1960 to $15,400 in 1993.

This shows that Africa has a plethora of problems particularly in the areas of industrial and economic growth which her continuous “unequal-partnership status” in a villagized world would further worsen. As Mule once stated: The most obvious (of these problems) are the low incomes on the continent with the GDP per capital of only US315 and with declining service sector contribution rates from around 20% GDP to 15% of GDP. These are accompanied by declining government revenues. The low average per capital income levels are further exacerbated by very high income inequalities comparable to, or even worse than those of Latin America. There are high incidence of social exclusion…. Africa is also marginalized globally, with it contribution to world trade amounting to less than two percent … Africa is also highly aid - dependent with aid accounting for nine percent of GNP on average for all countries…. These are also problems of governance … on the political and Economic management fronts.

Without any gainsaying, Africa is the hardest hit continent by the rapaciousness of globalisation. Ironically, the African Growth and Opportunity Act put before the American Senate by President Bill Clinton in 1998 which was passed into law in May, 2000, and, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments are part of the instruments put in place by the West to further deplete whatever is left of Africa’s resources. These are devices to “roll-back whatever gains the third world counties were able to make at the economic level during the cold war years”. In fact, both the AGOA and MAI are traps aimed at foisting-without much conscious resistance by the victims of the so-called “global constitution” - a “global economy” on Africa and other developing economies. This constitution, argued Obadina, allows the powerful international corporations unfettered freedom to operate anywhere around the globe without any limitation by the policies of host nations irrespective of the consequences of their operation to the interests of the host nations.

It should be particularly noted however, that, the advocates (western nations) of globalisation are hypocritical in their approach giving the fact that: The Western Nations pressing the poor nations to open their doors to the free-market are advocating policies they did not follow). (The) governments of virtually all developed nations gave their agricultural and industrial producers some level of protection at crucial stages of their economic development. But today’s Western leaders conveniently forget economic history.

The foregoing is further corroborated by the fact that: The same globalisation process that champions the eradication of the great divide between the East and West is negating the dissolution of the North-South divide.

It could be reasonably argued that, this explains why the officials of the instruments - (the World Bank and IMF; and also the WTO and the G8) - of globalisation cannot see or have chosen not to see any “connection between globalisation and Africa’s poverty”. This ideological blind spot aided by the “uneven thesis of globalisation” is very consequential to Africans and Africa’s development because: The consequence of the ideological blindspot and the refusal (by the instruments of globalisation) to accept the evidence of history is that whilst capital-led globalisation is at the root of Africa’s crisis, it is also miraculously suggested as its solution.

This has promoted the argument that, globalisation has damaged Africa’s natural environment and, on balance of costs and benefits, it has been a disaster for Africa both in human and material resources The reasons for this are not far-fetched looking at the UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1996, which contains among other revelations the fact that: Twenty countries in Africa (today) have per capital income lower than 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the least Developed Countries (LDCs) are in Africa. A food -surplus continent twenty years ago, Africa is now food-deficit.

The striking points that emerge from the foregoing are that globalisation through its “heavy constraints” is changing the way in which major institutional actors think and operate across nations and within nations. Globalisation is changing the determinism of the state: its actions and inactions; what firms and people do; where they do it, how they see themselves (their identity) and what they want (their preferences). Moreover, its accompanying financial transactions’ increasing volume and their decreasing costs as well as reduction in public sector expenditure have put strong competitive pressures on the governments worldwide to reduce their role in the determination of who gets what, when, where, how, and why - particularly as it affects the delivery of public goods within the political system. This is especially disturbing in Africa which, according to Thorbecke “is the only developing region where poverty is increasing”, considering the fact that: Africa governments (now) seem to have lost control of the policy making process, and are under pressure to accept dictation from creditor nations and financial institutions. (African) governments now tend to discuss development issues less with their own nationals, and more with donors and creditors, about debt repayment, debt relief and rescheduling, and paradoxically about more development assistance (which rather than develop them further their underdevelopment and dependent (emphasis mine).

What IS TO BE Done?
Considering the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation for Africa and, in the light of the analysis that has been done in the context of this paper, our argument is that much as globalisation may be inevitable, its consequences for Africa are devastating. It is therefore, our contention that, there is the need for an appropriate response to emerge from Africa with a view to understanding the dynamics that will hopefully help to evolve measures that will reduce the devastating effects of globalisation. Thus, we pose the question: what is to be done? Do, Africans require a response informed by their own historical development? Our belief is that, for Africa to get out of this entrapment, it needs to delink its dependency on the western powers and that its system of independent states needs to be recomposed.

Given the foregoing, what are the alternatives left for the states in Africa in view of the rampaging menace of globalisation and the seeming helplessness (due to debt burden) of the states and the citizenry? In other words, what are the ways out?

Even though, these questions on the surface appear unanswerable, it is essential for Africa’s very survival to be emancipated from the current state of helplessness. This is particularly necessary because, as Charlick opined: …the position of the world bank in the late 1980s, that development could be improved through the betterment of “governance” regardless of the type of macro- political system operating in Africa, has been substantially discredited.

Clues have been given as to what Africa and her people must do to “counter the centrifugal forces of globalisation” and emancipate themselves from its manacling claws and anteceding institutional rationalization.

One possible way out according to Tandon, who draws upon Amin’s earlier works, is the subordination of external relations to the logic of internal development. Through this, African revolutionary and activist classes (could be) actively engaged in building alternative (new) structures of power for organising production based on new values of humanity and care for the environment. The need for this, among other factors, could probably be identified as one of the catalysts for the theme, “Globalisation, Democracy and Development in Africa” – developed by the African Association of Political Science, Twelfth Biennial Congress, which took place in Darkar, Senegal, in 1999.

According to this logic, “developing countries should retain the idea of an activist state in reacting to the effects of globalisation. That is, African citizens must not resign themselves to Fate vis-à-vis the manacling claws of globalisation and, they must realise that it is always better to be a king in a “jungle” than a deprived and malnourished messenger in a “city”. They must cease to be mere “on-lookers” - who, according to Frantz Fanon, are either cowards or traitors-on issues affecting their economic, political and socio-cultural well being. Instead, they must sever the apron-springs of domination by the developed world by categorically and practically resisting the inequality inherent in a villagized world. Thus, according to Ake “the people of Africa will have to empower themselves to repossess their own development”. This, could, in addition to other mechanisms, be done by rebuilding their national images, by fighting corruption and, by insisting on their own cultural preferences, and terms of membership in the village. This will only be possible through a sincere, committed sociological, cultural, economic and political realignment that is truly African in nature, and intent. Without these conditions, it will be difficult, if not totally impossible, for Africa and Africans to talk about political and economic integration, improvement and, above all, emancipative development in the twenty-first century.

By:
S.T. Akindele, Ph.D
Department of Political Science
Faculty of Social Sciences
Obafemi Awolowo University

T.O. Gidado, M.Sc
Department of Political Science
Faculty of Social Sciences
Obafemi Awolowo University

O.R. Olaopo
Department of Political Science
Faculty of Social Sciences
Obafemi Awolowo University
laopwale@yahoo.com

1 Comment »

  1. Yesterday’s oppressors appear to be today’s liberators….

    Couldn’t describe it better. Very helpful and informative topic. Thank you Lissan Team. You are doing a great job.

    Comment by Surafel Beyene — 14. April 2008 @ 17:10

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