Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Can globalization promote African development?

Now that the wow 2006 team seems somewhat tired of blogging, I feel like reviving the debate by sharing my views on globalization, but still in line with the theme of African development. This is indeed a very controversial topic and I hope it may create an environment for opened debate.

Globalization is presented to us both as a competing discourse and as a contested project. Whatever the angle one may view it, there is more and more public awareness that we live in a world of transformation, affecting almost every aspect of what we do. For better or worse, we are propelled in into a global order.

Nonetheless, one of the things that always worry me about globalization is that whatever standpoint one takes, more and more people advocate its advent and mostly urge Africa to follow the successive Asian global integration. Very few, however, present to Africa how to share to its maximum benefits attached to globalization. My view is that, the fact that globalization is a dragging force no one can resist should not be used to make African countries blindly go along will all global trends. We all want and advocate to go global but mostly we should learn how to go global. A regrettable fact is that literature as well as many African initiatives emphasizes more on what Africa looses by being less integrated in the global economy.

Without being skeptical, what always matters to me is the portion of the poor in the globalization rhetoric. How can Africa reap better is more of concern to me than why Africa does not act globally?

This concern brings me to how does globalization affect our lives? This goes beyond TV, Internet, western books or computers we use. It gets us to policies our governments adopt nationally or regionally through bodies such as SADC, Nepad, AU, etc. Indeed, social, political and macroeconomic policies are fascinating grounds when it comes to looking at how globalization impacts nation states. In fact, the wave of global integration known as globalization affects our policies in various ways, both providing opportunities to its actors (nations) and promoting a particular set of economic interests such as neo-liberalism. IFIs such as the World Bank and IMF, through aid conditionalities can make countries adhere policies that may even contradict a ruling party ideology. One of the most striking examples is the Structural Adjustment Programmes- SAP- led by both the IMF and the World Bank and implemented in developing countries through the 1980s. Some African countries have not yet fully recovered from its disastrous effects so far.

The UN, and its policy directives are another illustration of molding nation state policies. Thus, the UN peace treaties are examples of how nations may be bound to a global ideology. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), another UN initiative, is now serving as a referential framework from which many nations design their anti-poverty policies. At least these are good examples of global governance.

To get back to the side of global policies hindering development prospects in some regions and countries, my first observation is that globalization has been more benefiting to certain countries, mostly western countries. As a result, those countries are the one to configure the political global governance. They make rules through WTO, IMF, and the World Bank and the rest of the world has no choice but to abide by those set of laws. Peet (2003) calls this triad [IMF, WTO, World Bank] ‘the unholy trinity’ and I think he is somehow right. With the blessing of some governments, international institutions are instrumental in determining the outcomes of globalization. Despite some good lessons (free and fair trade, good governance, democracy, etc) taught by these global institutions, they are fundamentally undemocratic. As a result, they simply enforce capitalism, exploitation of the poorer and the weaker. Unfortunately, Africa is the weakest link of this global system and its population simply bears the brunt. The fact is not only that the poorest countries are often the least able to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization but also that and they are the most vulnerable to the challenges and crises generated in the global system.

Besides IFIs, multinational corporations –MNCs- and capital mobility are the other way globalization influences our daily lives. As a result, we are all propelled into a process of international rule making and enforcement, which we cannot avoid. MNCs provide jobs, enhance competitivity of companies in recipient countries, true and great but in many other cases, they are associated with exploitation. By making these points, I do not ignore the need for an international financial system. Nor I am suggesting that IFIs should be blamed for poor performance in developing countries.

Despite all these disadvantages, Africa is not doomed to fail. Indeed, the African misery is not due to the system put into place by the ‘unholy trinity’, though they share some responsibilities, and the good news is that there is still some hope for Africa. The point I am trying to make is that, our focus should shift from how much we loose by being less global to how well we can maximize by acting global. How well can we make MNCs responsive to the well being of communities that host them?

As a continent, Africa must be aware that there are benefits attached to globalization. Africa should also know that the west and recently Asia are the maximizers of those benefits. But Africa can still find some opportunities or generate them.

Therefore, Africa should not oppose globalization, instead, our first task should be to identify some niches that constitute African potential and that can be used to reap the best of globalization. The recipe comprises both local and global initiatives to be taken.

At the local and regional levels, countries in Africa that are most likely to succeed will be characterized by:

On the global level, initiatives should be orientated towards influencing bilateral and multilateral cooperation for the advent of democratic and just global governance as well as a fight for a fairer trade.

Hi Cyrille

Thanks for all the feedback and the positive words about my blog. Its always great to get constructive criticism and also compliments. And thanks for being the one who keeps this blog rolling.

As a reply/comment on this entry of yours, I have posted an entry rather than a comment.

Keep up the great work and hope you have found a suitable internship. By the way, how's the wedding plans going?
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