Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa

S.T. Akindele, Ph.D; T.O. Gidado, M.Sc; and O.R. Olaopo; Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University


© 2002 by S.T. Akindele, T.O. Gidado, and O.R. Olaopo. All Rights Reserved. This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the editors of Globalization. Akindele, S.T., T.O. Gidado, and O.R. Olaopo. "Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa." Globalization. 2.1 (Winter 2002).

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 (Fafowora, 1998:5). In other words, as Ohuabunwa, (1999: 20) 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 (MacEwan, 1990). 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 (United Nations, 1995b). 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 (Ibid), is the broadening and deepening linkages of national economies into a worldwide market for goods and services, especially capital. As Tandon (1998B: 2) 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 (Ohiorhenuan 1998: 6) as well as, at the deterritorialisation and villagization of the world. Expanding this argument, Gordimer (1998), 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 (Diagne and Ossebi. 1996) by creating “a basic change in the way in which major actors think and operate across the globe” (Biersterker, 1998). 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” (Madunagu, 1999, 53).

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 (United Nations, 1993). 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 (1998A:2) 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” (Toyo, 2000) 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.

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Last Modified: 12 April, 2002