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).

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” (Ibid). 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 (2000: 19) 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. (Ibid: 19)

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. (See Grieco and Holmes 1999; Jensen, 1999, and Colle, 2000).

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.

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Last Modified: 29 April, 2002