MICAH STEPHEN: Africa And The Globe. Part One

It is time to be bothered about fatherland. We might have coiled into a cave of denial just to escape from the corrosive effect of our malady: from the distasteful effect of colonialism on our psyche, the near impossibility of Africa to transform from a plundered, pillaged and thieved hemisphere, into a genuine modern state. Let us go the full cycle to acceptance, we are in a limbo. What she has as reality is a beehive of political bedlam, inter-tribal hubbubs caused by the forceful union of diverse empires into nation states. Unity achieved by the cudgel of force. But of more importance is the fate of this continent, in the hands of her former masters and their cohorts. We are being globalized, changed and short changed. They are the first world, we are the third world.

It must be noted that the largest chunk of the Third World is powerless and backward and will continue to be powerless and backward because it lacks the production of organic and indigenous knowledge to power its political, economic and technological development. Yet, the very notion of a huge chunk of Africa and some parts of Asia and Latin America as the Third World is steeped in remarkable ironies. Before it became a veritable and enduring marker of backwardness and underdevelopment, the radical and progressive leaders of these countries such as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Surkarno of India, proposed the term at the Bandung conference as a way of distinguishing countries within their spheres of authority – countries which pursued a middle road policy of mixed economy as against capitalist and socialist countries which belong to the first and second worlds respectively.

Yet after the collapse of the Second World and actually existing socialist countries, one would have thought the term “Third World” would itself disappear, but it has clung to these countries like an ugly limpet. Tataalo Alamu has opined that the fact is that if knowledge is power, the production of knowledge is the production of power. Those societies that cannot produce organic and authentic knowledge will only produce powerlessness and utter poverty. This is because poverty of knowledge cannot lead to knowledge of poverty.

This poverty of knowledge is at the roots of Nigeria’s and Africa’s abysmal poverty and its continuous production of powerlessness in all its dimensions and ramifications despite outlandish oil riches. So the question is why has Africa been unable to produce her own knowledge? An endless list of corruption, nepotism, tribalism and at the apex of this pyramid is globalization.

There is a general agreement that the history of mankind (as of the world) is a history of one world order or the other. As Popoola puts it, “man’s existence has been one continuous struggle for the maintenance of an existing world order or the search to create a new world order”. To begin with, even though, globalisation as Ohiorhenuan, Mowlana, and Oyejide, Grieco and Holmes 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 , it challenges the mediative role of the state vis-à-vis external pressures. It threatens the discretion of the state everywhere. Not only this, 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 is in reality, the dynamics of under development – the development of under development by the agents of development, Akindele, Gidado and Olaopo have submitted.

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. S.T. Akindele, Ph.D; T.O. Gidado, M.Sc; and O.R. Olaopo; Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University in their article; “Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa” explain that” globalisation 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 difficult 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 (1999) 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.”

The transition of the world from a bipolar to a unipolar world particularly in the last decade or two of the 20th century, in reinforcing the dominance of the US in world affairs, means the dominance of liberal philosophy regarding the political or economic or even legal affairs of man- a necessary offshoot of the present globalization process. Consequently, development today seems to be the adoption of liberal processes (democracy, human rights and liberal (market) economics) especially with the “demise” of communist world led by Russia and the gradual assimilation of China in the field of liberal economics. 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 are high may lose their identity. 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 her people.

Two issues, consequently, stand out for clarification here. The one as to the type of development necessary for the people of the developing economies (including Nigeria) and the other as to whether globalization impacts positively on these peoples so as to attain that type of development. This analysis is necessary if we are to have a better picture of how we should build our state.

First and foremost, globalization is understood in economic and financial terms, where it seeks to broaden and deepen linkages of national economies into a worldwide market for goods, services and particularly capital. With the revolution in telecommunications and information technologies, dramatic increases in trade linkages, cross border capital flows as well as changes in form, structure and location of production have been witnessed. Benedict Kanyip in the book, “Consumer protection in Nigeria: Law, Theory and Policy” explains that these national linkages have however brought two additional impacts. The first is that because of developments in media technology and communication, globalization brings with it a growing tendency towards the universal homogenization of ideas, cultures, values and even lifestyles. He explained further that the second is a corollary of the first, which is, given the homogenization of ideas and indeed the dominance of western liberalism as exemplified by the United States, it is now fashionable to the economic growth and development with liberal democracy and its attending imperatives such as human rights. Although good governance is stressed, the impression given is that a necessary fall-out of liberal economics which emphasises such imperatives as privatization, deregulation and commercialization of developing economies is indispensable if they are to come out of their relative underdevelopment. This is in addition to other imperatives like right-sizing and retooling the civil service, upgrading the standard of personnel management, decentralizing and rationalizing government structures etc

………to be continued

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