Africa and Free Trade
Africa and Free Trade

The following are excerpts from articles addressing Africa and globalization.

Fridah Muyale-Manenji, an African women, writes in Echoes, a World Council of Churches’ publication:

…Established and large companies such as TNCs came in and brought in their finished goods at much cheaper prices than those of our own manufacturers, thus forcing many local industries to close down. In Zimbabwe, the clothing sector was hardest hit with the closure of the local Cone Textiles, which retrenched hundreds of workers. These workers were family breadwinners with children in schools and houses to pay rent for. Because of the tight labour market, most of them are frustrated and disillusioned with no work and money. The importation and cheap selling of second-hand clothes from Europe has forced many women out of their businesses. In Kenya, the women who were involved in the manufacturing of the famous “kiondos” (sisal bags) were negatively affected when the sisal bags were produced en masse in Japan and sold in East Africa and the surrounding countries at low prices.

In Mali, foreign investors were able to take over the major revenue enterprises such as tobacco and textile industries, not to mention the only national airline. In Cameroon, banks, agricultural ventures and the national airlines were taken over by foreign investors. The African market has become the dumping ground for all kinds of goods from developed countries and from the East, all in the name of free trade. In Zambia, the spirits, motor and textile industries are almost dead. In Tanzania the leather and textile industries have almost collapsed.

Massive unemployment is a common phenomenon in Africa. In Zambia for example, retrenchments and liquidations have led a staggering number of over 200,000 people out of employment over a period of five years since 1992. Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other African countries are not different. This has had a direct impact on Africa’s cultural traits…

Source: Muyale-Manenji, Fridah. “The effects of globalization on culture in Africa in the eyes of an African woman.” ECHOES. 1998. World Council of Churches.

Political science professors Dr. S.T. Akindele, T.O. Gidado, and O.R. Olaopo, from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, write:

“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…”

“…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…”

Source: Akindele, S.T., T.O. Gidado, and O.R. Olaopo. “Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa.” Globalization. 2.1 (Winter 2002).

Franklin Cudjoe, an Adjunct Fellow at the Independent Institute and Executive Director of Imani: The Center for Humane Education, a think-tank located in Accra, Ghana, states:

“But one might ask whether Africa’s problems are really caused by globalization…At a time when the continent strives to liberate itself from the expansive powers of postcolonial governments and the politicization of society brought about by them, the real need of the day is economic freedom. Alas, the economic situation is so bad in so many African countries that young men are fleeing their own governments, trekking through the vast and dangerous Sahara desert and struggling over heavily guarded barbed wires to look for better opportunities in Europe. Unfortunately, many die on this pilgrimage of freedom…”

“Globalization can hardly be blamed for the fact that only 10 percent of Africa’s trade takes place among African countries themselves. With 750 million people living on the continent, the potential for the expansion of trade must be enormous. Very little trade has been allowed in this poorest of continents where tariffs are almost as high as 50 percent and where highway robbers dressed as customs officials block free exchange.”

“What is it that motivates Nigeria, which calls itself the giant of Africa, to ban the importation of ninety-six different products from Ghana when both countries have duty-free and quota-free access to the U.S. markets for 6,500 of their products?..”

“But the West is also guilty here as there is little incentive to encourage trade because foreign aid is piled on the leaders who make these economic policies…”

“Isn’t it strange that exactly two weeks after the G8 deal that wrote off 80 percent of my country’s [Ghana] debt, all our parliamentarians, who earn $300 per month, are to receive $25,000 each in free car loans and $60 a day in rent allowance? I call it free car loans because five years ago they each received $20,000 but have yet to pay it back…”

“…African farmers use less than one-twentieth as much fertilizer as those in the West in part because import duties and red tape make fertilizer eight times as expensive as in Europe? For the same reasons, ordinary Africans pay ten times more for air travel than those on other continents.
Every ordinary African faces innumerable government-created bottlenecks in any enterprise they attempt. As the government has become the majority employer in these countries, the range of employment opportunities has been reduced and the government’s limitless public borrowing has crowded out the private sector’s access to capital.

Even the World Bank, one of the few remaining organizations still doling out free money to governments, now confirms that of the twenty countries in the world where it is most difficult to do business, seventeen are African…”

“If there is to be any hope for long term prosperity in Africa, Africans must be given the predictability that comes with the rule of law, the protection of private property and free markets, and decentralized management of resources. This will harness local knowledge along with the creativity, diligence, and thrift that is natural to Africans.”

Source: Cudjoe, Franklin. “Globalization Rocks, but African Leaders Fail to Understand It.”
November 7, 2005.

The Former President of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, responds to Franklin Cudjoe’s article:

The first major exploitation, denigration and humiliation of Africa was the slave trade. This lasted almost 500 years. The second major exploitation, denigration and humiliation of Africa was colonialism which goes way back before the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. And colonialism prepared Africa for the third major phase of exploitation, denigration and humiliation that globalisation now threatens to be….

In today’s world of globalization, the economic ideas and foundation underpinning the then colonial policy still determine the extent and nature of Africa’s integration into the global economy—basically as a supplier of raw materials and extractive industry commodities, mostly unprocessed. If we want a better future for our continent and its future generations, we must be sufficiently agitated to robustly fight the manifestly unjust economic relations in a globalising world.
In today’s world of globalisation, the colonial era so-called far-reaching ideas of civilisation translate into what we now call “the cultural dimension of globalisation,” where, among other things, Western (mostly American) cultural values and ways of life predominate. They are fanned by global interconnectedness through migration and the Information and Communication Technology revolution that beams these ways of life to our living rooms and our computer screens, firing the imagination.

…we must strive to change the direction of our trade. We are too dependent on Europe and America as destinations of our exports. The European Union alone accounts for 52 per cent of Africa’s exports. The good political relations we have with Asia and Latin America are yet to translate into larger investment and trading opportunities. It is true Africa’s exports to Asia grew significantly in the 1990s. But between 1999 and 2001, only 16 per cent of Africa’s export revenues came from Asia…

…we have to restructure the content and direction of our trade and investment, finding new innovative ways to enhance South-South cooperation, as a means to develop the capacity to relate as equal partners with countries of the North…

Africa’s exports are largely primary, unprocessed, commodities which account for at least 66 per cent of total exports from our continent. Africa, therefore, bears the brunt of the fickleness of commodity market prices, and frequently deteriorating terms of trade and erratic weather conditions. We also suffer from the excessive appetite of the value-adding and trading multinational corporations…

There is rule of law and protection of private property in Tanzania and our parliamentarians pay for their mode of transport and accommodation as these are deducted at source from their income. Libertarians we may not be, and we make no apologies! We feel too free not to believe there is an economic system based exclusively on “Free markets”—albeit even those who invented the concept are still in search of it! Mr. Cudjoe’s misrepresentations and sweeping statements hardly move us forward on what are serious and urgent matters regarding Africa’s future. And I believe The Independent Institute, as well as Mr Cudjoe’s audience and readers deserve better!”

Source: Mkapa, Benjamin William. “Globalization Rocks, But African Leaders Fail To Understand It: A Rejoinder.’ December 7, 2005.


Next: Comparative Advantage Quiz