GLOBALIZATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
1.1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Human quest for sustainable development can be traced back to the very onset of human existence. This explains why human history is replete with various attempts by man to better his conditions at various points in time. In our own time, this noble quest has assumed a more generic status in an attempt to transform the whole world into a global village, where humanity would share a common developmental experience. This emerging global order, known as Globalization, is a continuous process and no one can claim to possess a full knowledge of its dimensions or even to exist outside its influence.
While its proponents have stressed the opportunities and benefits of this phenomenon, there is also increasing disillusionment towards it among many schools of thought in both developed and developing nations. The rationale behind these changing perceptions and attitudes includes lack of tangible benefits to most developing countries especially those in Africa. Hence, there are myriads of questions that challenge the philosophy of globalization and the authenticity of its numerous claims and promises. This explains why a critical inquiry into the intricacies of the current globalization process is not only pertinent but also inevitable.
1.2 PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF THE INQUIRY
Expectedly, many scholars have pondered and are still pondering on the overall effects of globalization on the entire human race. These studies are not only necessitated by the controversy hovering around the phenomenon, as explained above, but by the apparent marginalization and increasing impoverishment of its less privileged participants. I, therefore, wish through an existential inquiry into the dynamics and the philosophical background of the current globalization process, to expose its contents. This would then enable us to extrapolate its possible implications to the quest for sustainable development in Africa. As a philosophical inquiry, this study would try to analyze the raison d’etre of the current globalization process. My major contention is that sustainable development is all about human beings and business is about ethics. Hence, the terminus ad quem of globalization should be the holistic development of humanity in ways that are sustainable for people of all races and for all generations.
1.3 METHODOLOGY OF RESEARCH
I wish to employ both expository and evaluative approach to this study. Thus, we shall delineate the philosophy of globalization vis-à-vis the existential status of Africa. These would serve as the premises for extrapolating the implications of globalization to African development. In general, the work is made up of five chapters. Chapter one offers a synoptic view of the entire work as well as the views of various scholars on globalization. The second chapter exposes and examines the concept and nature of globalization as it pertains to this study. The notion of sustainable development and its current status in Africa is discussed in chapter three, while the fourth chapter carefully extrapolates the implications of globalization to sustainable development in Africa. Then, as a finishing touch, the fifth chapter critically evaluates the whole intellectual exposure. With genuine humility, I do not intend to undertake an exhaustive inquiry into this topic: globalization and African development. Therefore, my research will be in tandem with those already carried out by erudite scholars on the subject.
1.4 LITERATURE REVIEW
Globalization is certainly at the heart of the contemporary age as an indispensable factor in its developmental process. Hence, our effort in this brief literature survey is to explore how some scholars conceive the globalization process vis-à-vis its implications to sustainable development in Africa. Obviously, many scholars see globalization as a mere economic phenomenon, involving the increasing interaction or integration of national economic systems through the growth in international trade, foreign investments and trans-border capital flow. However, one can also point to the rapid increase in cross-border socio-cultural and technological exchange as important and integral dimensions of globalization. In this light, Anthony Giddens, a renowned sociologist, simply defined globalization as the “decoupling of space and time.” He emphasized that through instantaneous communication, knowledge and culture can be shared around the world simultaneously.
This idea is more explicitly portrayed by Rund Lubbers, a Dutch political economist, who defined globalization as A process in which geographic distance becomes a factor of diminishing importance in the establishment and maintenance of cross-border economic, political and socio-cultural relations. In agreement with the afore-mentioned scholars, David Held and Anthony McGrew, in their entry for Oxford Companion to Politics,made a subtle attempt to characterize globalization and its effects on socio-cultural as well as on political structures. They conceived globalization as A process (or set of processes), which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions, expressed in transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction and power. Observably, a common denominator here is the optimism of these scholars about globalization. For them, it is a universal process of transforming humanity into a single society or what Marshall McLuhan termed the global village. This transformation, for Henry Alapiki, is usually accompanied by the intensification of universal social relations “which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.” In fact, Jan Scholte expressed this view more elaborately when he wrote that:
Globalization refers to processes whereby social relations acquire relatively distanceless and borderless qualities, so that human lives are increasingly played out in the world as a single place … Globalization is thus an on-going trend whereby the world has – in many respects and at a generally accelerating rate – become one relatively borderless social sphere. While these scholars view globalization from a “social relations” perspective, others emphasize a more specific economic dimension. The tendency here is to view globalization as a rapid increase in cross-border socio-economic exchange under the conditions of capitalism. A typical representative of this school is Prof. Oyejide who states that:
Globalization refers to the increased integration, across countries, of markets for goods, services and capital. It implies in turn accelerated expansion of economic activities globally and sharp increases in the movement of tangible and intangible goods across national and regional boundaries. With that movement, individual countries are becoming more closely integrated into the global economy. Their trade linkages and investment flows grow more complex, and cross-border financial movements are more volatile. More importantly, globalization has been created, and continues to be maintained by liberalization of economic policies in several key areas.
However, the anti-globalization schools view the phenomenon as a worldwide drive towards a universal economic domination by supranational institutions that are not accountable to democratic processes or national governments. Thus, from the perspective of international “political economy,” Aja Akpuru- Aja and A.C. Emeribe argue that: The engineering mechanism of globalization remains the revolution in science and technology, particularly as it affects transportation and electro-communication systems. The net result is the creation of a global village, a single market system, a global factory and a global office. One result of globalization is grotesque and dangerous polarization between peoples and countries benefiting from the system and those that are merely recipients and reactionaries of the effects.
Against this backdrop, one can rightly adduce that globalization seems to transcend mere flow of trade or social relations to perpetrate some form of economic, political and socio-cultural imperialism. This may imply a sort of donor-recipient polarism. In this case, globalization cannot be a benign force since it would certainly create a world of winners and losers. This explains why its implications to developing countries, especially those in Africa, appear to be precarious. Yet, the pro-globalization thinkers maintain that: There is mounting evidence that inequalities in global income and poverty are decreasing and that globalization has contributed immensely to this turn around … The gap between rich and poor is also shrinking with most nations in Asia and Latin America. The countries that are getting poorer are those that are not open to world trade, notably many nations in Africa.
The basic logic here is that poor countries that have lowered their tariff barriers have gained increases in employment and national income. Sequel to this, the World Trade Organization argues that “trade liberalization helps poor countries to catch up with rich ones and that this faster economic growth helps alleviate poverty.” Succinctly put, Professor Ron Duncan of the AustralianNationalUniversity argued point blank that: Although globalization may increase inequality in some countries, this can be remedied with structural responses. A rise in poverty among the poorest countries results from their not taking part in globalization. But are we really to blame the poverty in Africa and other under-developed countries on their abstinence from globalization? Certainly this is not the view of some thinkers, who maintain that globalization is even responsible for the increasing impoverishment and marginalization of the so-called “Third World.” The most frequently used data are those from the UNDP 1999 Development Report. This report shows that the past decade, the decade of the most intense globalization, has shown increasing concentration of income, resources and wealth among people, corporations and countries.
Situating these findings to the African setting, Yash Tandon, a Ugandan political scientist, argued that: Anybody with any degree of intellectual integrity would see that the globalization of Africa or the integration of Africa into the global economy from the days of slavery to the contemporary period of capital-led integration has on balance of costs and benefits been a disaster for Africa, both in human terms and in terms of the damage to Africa’s natural environment… it is also a measure of their (World Bank/IMF officials) intellectual dishonesty or ideological brainwashing that they cannot see the connection between globalization and Africa’s poverty.
This judgment is in indeed harsh, but it seems to represent the views of many thinkers. For instance, Obiora F. Ike, a theologian and social philosopher, affirms the veracity of this judgment when he questioned and answered thus: “Is globalization good for Africa’s future? Not at all. I would argue that its present form has been exaggerating the gap between Africa and the so-called developed world.” Thus, Mbaya Kankwenda, a Congolese scholar, concludes that: Globalization has a strong dogmatic and doctrinal dimension. In this respect it concerns the globalization of market fundamentalism and its paradigm, which in reality is nothing but the keeping in step of developing countries, hence Africa, taking the continent as an object rather than a subject and partner.
This is why he considers the globalization of Africa as a forced insertion into the global community through developmental aid conditionalities, resulting in harsh economic and political reforms in Africa. Surely, the Church is not passive to the dialectics of globalization since it sees humanity as a single family. Thus, in Centesimus Annus the church opines that: It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies, which leave so many countries on the margins of development and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions, which will enable them to share in development. (Centesimus Annus, no. 35). This view was expressed in the caveat by Pope Benedict XVI (while a cardinal), that: “The economic inequality between the northern and southern hemispheres of the globe is becoming more and more an inner threat to the cohesion of the human family.” The danger of this threat is already portrayed in the new forms of terrorism in the international arena, which paradoxically are the products of, as well as a problem to globalization.
However, the Church appears to be very optimistic about the possibility and advantages of globalization, since its dangerous tendencies can be easily eschewed. Thus, in his 2004 World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II repeatedly stressed the fundamental but very simple principle that must guide all our reflections on globalization. According to him, Humanity, however much marred by sin, hatred and violence, is called by God to be a single family … this recognition can give the world as it is today – marked by the process of globalization – a soul, a meaning and a direction.
He, therefore, expresses optimistically that: “Globalization, for all its risks, also offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity.” In this way, the Church addresses the question of globalization and its effects on the unity and sustainable development of humanity. As can be deduced from the above expressions, the Church is especially concerned about inequalities as well as the alienation of individuals and communities from economic and social progress. Indubitably, these seem to summarize the major predicament of Africa in the current globalization process.
To this extent, we have tried to highlight the views of various schools of thought on globalization vis-à-vis its impacts on Africa. Certainly they contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon. Yet, it is obvious that more elucidations are still necessary for us to appreciate the existential implications of the current globalization process towards sustainable development in Africa. This will be our pre-occupation in the subsequent chapters.
Cf. A. Giddens, “What Is Globalization?”
Cf. R. Lubbers, “Globalization”
Cf. D. Held & A. McGrue, “Oxford Companion To Politics”
Cf. “Global” in The New Webster’s Dictionary Of The English Language, International Edition, (USA: Lexicon Publications Inc., 1997), p. 406.
H. Alapiki, “The Political Economy Of Globalization,” in H. Alapiki (ed), The Political Economy Of Globalization, (Port Harcourt: Amethyst & Co. Publishers, 2005), p. 211.
Ibid pp. 211- 212 (quoting J. Scholte, 1997 pp.14-15).
Ibid (quoting Oyejide, 1998 p. 107).
Ibid pp. 212-213 (quoting A. Apkuru-aja and A. C. Emeribe, 2000 p. 361).
Cf. World Bank, “Attacking Global Poverty” in World Development Report 2000/2001