What Africa Thinks About Globalization
What Africa Thinks About Globalization


This analysis provides different perspectives from Africa on globalization, international trade, culture, economic development, World Bank and IMF policies, role of women, and human rights. Contributors include an African woman, academics, journalists, and former government and military officials.

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

  • Globalization in Africa involves one fundamental project: that of opening up the economies of all countries freely and widely to the global market and its forces….

    Seen in this way, globalisztion is primarily not an impersonal process driven by laws and factors of development – such as technology – operating outside human control and agency. Rather it is a conscious programme of reconstructing international economic and political relations in line with a particular set of interests (the profit motivations of the businesses, especially the transnational corporations of the advanced industrial countries) and vision (the dogma of the primacy of the free market and of private enterprise in all processes of human development).

    For Africa, all the central planks of the process of globalization have been implemented over the past decade-and-a-half as structural adjustment programmes. Countries have deregulated foreign investment, liberalised their imports, removed currency controls, emasculated the direct economic role of the state, and so on. The results have been to further undermine the internal, national productive capacity, social security and democratic integrity of these countries. So that is basically how globalization has impacted on Africa…

    Before the advancement of free economic activity on the national, regional and global levels, most of the African economies were heavily regulated by the state. Under this system, they introduced such import and export restrictive business practices as import and export licencing, increased import duties, taxes or levies on import transactions, allocation of foreign exchange to essential goods, import and export quotas and other prohibitions. This forced the creation of local and locally manufactured goods produced from local materials. Self-reliance was encouraged. However, this has now been replaced by donor-driven deregulation, economic liberalisation and privatisation of the national economic activities. The argument has been that this new policy will bring about faster export and economic growth, which will enable developing countries to repay the mounting external debt burden accumulated since the independence of these countries.

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. http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/effglob.html

International Trade
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. http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/effglob.html

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). http://globalization.icaap.org/content/v2.1/01_akindele_etal.html

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. http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1632

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

  • “Shonyala okhumanya inzu yowasio tawe”. This literally means that you cannot manage or know the affairs of the house of your neighbour. This is a saying the people of Ebukanga village, Kisa location in Kakamega district of the Western Province of Kenya usually use when respecting one’s privacy and affairs…

    ….The effect globalization has had on culture is immense and diverse. It has affected people’s cultural behaviours in different ways. People have had to change their living ways. The loud echoing advertisement rhythms of the famous Coca-Cola drinks can be heard across boundaries in towns, cities and townships and even in remote rural areas where drinking water is a problem to get…

    But the amazing issue is that of ignorance. Even the rich and well-to-do have no clue about the system that has invaded the African continent. Or even if they are aware, they have either chosen to overlook the overall implication or have decided that they are also benefactors of the system. The sale of a shirt made outside Zimbabwe is more certain than a locally manufactured one. “Import” is the in term. Ladies who wear perfume from Paris and shoes from Italy tend to receive more respect than those wearing a locally manufactured brand. Children in rich families are too busy involved in video games, international schools that offer English and other “international” languages, television and movies whose content is 90% from outside the country.

    Song and dance has become characterised with themes of AIDS, orphans, suffering, drought and war. These have been neutralised with the western beats of Michael Jackson et al. The youth prefer the western beats to the local artists and hair styles, shoes and clothing keep to the trends on the western fashion scene.

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. http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/effglob.html

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

  • 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.

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

Fredrick Mugira, a Ugandan journalists writes about the lack of interest amongst Africans for local sports teams:

  • The feeling by several Ugandans and Africans in general that everything in Europe is superior and better than what is in their countries, has made them take football players like Christiano Ronaldo, Henry Thierry, John Terry, Ronaldinho as their football heroes. What happens to their local football players: they don’t care. People do not have confidence and trust in what they have. Lack of confidence and support in African football by Africans themselves is slowly killing this interesting sport on the continent. The disease killing it, is in the minds of its supporters.

Source: Mugira, Fredrick. “African football is dying slowly.” Africa News. May 20, 2008. http://www.africanews.com/site/list_messages/18365

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

  • In conclusion, the North must revise its conception of development. Economic growth without social and cultural justice cannot be our idea of development. It is imperative that development is measured in terms of the quality of human life, which can be reflected in, for example, better education, health and life expectancy for every single member of society. This is only possible if men and women are equally empowered, in theory and in practice. And the North has a crucial role to play in this process. Anything that falls short of restoring peoples’ dignity, sense of identity, continuity and security should never be accepted. Africa needs to learn to respect the dissenting voice of its own people. And at the same time, the North needs to take heed to the saying of the African people “Shonyala okhumanya inzu yowasio tawe”.

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. http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/effglob.html

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

  • 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, according to Ake (1996: 114), is, in reality, the dynamics of under development – the development of under development by the agents of development…”

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

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

  • In Africa, women have mostly been involved in farming, in employment as civil servants, and in industry. They have also been involved in small-scale entrepreneurships. No doubt, these sectors have been severely affected by the introduction of trade liberalization. Women on this continent contribute the most critical factor in agricultural production and agriculture. Yet liberalization has failed to ensure the availability of credit, agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and insecticides at affordable prices. The marketing of their produce has been thrown in the hands of businessmen whose sole objective is profit maximisation. The result – food security in Africa is highly threatened. Women constitute 60% percent of the communal farmers in Zimbabwe. In rural areas the impact has been so serious that rural urban migration has increased to unfortunate proportions. This in turn has led to the increase of squatters in urban areas and crime which affects mostly women and children.

    In Zimbabwe, some women have resorted to cross-border trade. This has had its own social and cultural repercussions. Children in this case are left out of parental care and the number of rape cases on young children has become an alarming cause of concern. In Zimbabwe alone, there is an average of four reported cases of rape every day. In other cases there have been reports of married women getting involved in extra-marital affairs once they cross the border while the spouses they have left behind indulge in the same, complicating and worsening the AIDS pandemic situation. Children no longer sit around the fireplace in the evening to listen to stories that promote the values of respect, integrity, peace, love and unity, even in the rural areas where this sort of environment would fit best. People – men, women and children – are all engrossed and embroiled in the struggle for survival – the struggle to get a bowl of mealie-meal to fill the tummy at least for the day…

    … In many countries, it has always been the responsibility of the man to go out and fend and provide for his family. This has changed. Men and women both leave home in search of the available labour. In fact, in cases where there are massive retrenchments, you now find men at home while the woman goes to work. This has hence affected the household responsibilities, where you find change of roles when a man has to wash and look after the children. In cases where the man goes to work, the woman is forced to become involved in supplementary activities such as sewing, selling vegetables and knitting to complement her husband’s salary. In these countries, women have suffered disproportionately from the impact of globalization. There are very many men who have been retrenched too, but when you look at the statistics you can see the difference. A company in Lesotho, for instance, was required to lay off 50% of its work force, and it ended laying off all the women workers. Under ESAP, states are required to reduce public spending. The immediately affected areas are health and education. In most of our African societies, it is the responsibility of the women to take care of the health not only of themselves, but also of the children in the home.

    Many girls have dropped out of school because their families cannot afford to pay all the school fees. Zimbabwe has not yet seen the extent to which this can go, but people from Ghana or Uganda who have lived under SAPs for many years and whose countries have been quoted by the World Bank as “success stories” will tell you of the majority of a whole generation who have not gone to school – the majority of whom are women. In Africa, there is a limit to your capacity to enjoy your rights if you have not gone to school. It means that you may not get a job and therefore your economic rights (which are basic human rights) are affected. The first challenge facing women today is education. Education must empower women with knowledge of their rights and how to seek redress should such rights be violated.

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. http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/effglob.html

An article in the Times of Zambia notes:

  • …Women are among those with less access to land, while accounting for a large share in small-scale food production. Land is a source of food, shelter, social status and power. Land is also a source of employment opportunities. Hence lack of access to this primary resource is largely responsible for the poverty that haunts the poor in Zambia, particularly women…

    …most women in Zambia today, whether living in towns or rural areas, do not enjoy the same rights to land as men.

    …because women do not have equal rights to property ownership, widowhood usually means loss of the right of access to fields where their labour has been invested, and to their homes.

    Better access not only to land as a means of production, but access to land as a right. There is therefore need to revisit existing institutional mechanisms to ensure that rights to land are acknowledged as basic human rights and that women’s equal rights are effectively incorporated into land policy and tenure programmes.

Source: “Women’s Access to Land Vital in Poverty Fight.” The Times of Zambia. May 13, 2008. http://allafrica.com/stories/200805130342.html

Human Rights
Binneh S Minteh a former Gambian Army Lieutenant, states:

  • The end of the cold war and the beginning of the 21st century marked a crucial moment in the African continent when strings of military coups took the forefront of political affairs on the continent. Pro –democratic totalitarian governments were overthrown in many African nations and replaced by military governments and quasi-military governments that lack any form of international legitimacy and or recognition by the legitimate international community of nations…

    Military governments are often compelled and cornered to organize fraudulent elections under so call Independent Electoral Commissions that lay the stepping-stone to international recognition and legitimacy. However with the presence of transparent and principled international observers, most elections under such power hungry demagogues are woefully condemned as fraudulent, deceptive and an insult to democratic principles and norms. Such was the case in Ghana with Flight Lieutenant Rawlings and his Junta, in Nigeria under General Sani Abacha and other numerous military leaders, in Burkina Faso under Captain Blaise Campaore, in Mauritania under ousted Maod Oultaya, and the Gambia under Retired Lieutenant Yaya Jammeh to name a few…

    Apart from relations with rogue nations, dictators not only turn to private institutions involved in dubious activities, but also elements of the Afro –American, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-European community as a means of buying legitimacy. What becomes troubling in the riding is a total disregard of all human rights abuses by not only private global business entities, but also elements of our very own Afro-Americans, Afro-Caribbean’s, and Afro-Europeans and their continual support for such dictators across the continent…

    In a similar development most African dictators are known to have hidden accounts and business investments under pseudo names with the help of International actors and mostly with the help of global players and the forces of globalization. Human rights abuses are given a total disregard and a complete blindness leaving innocent citizens at the mercy of outright bold and abstract dictatorship…

    In the Gambia whilst human rights abuses continue to take shape in global affairs, President Jammeh’s relation with certain elements of Afro-American, Afro-European and the Afro-Caribbean community has become no hidden agenda at all. Whilst Journalist continue to be murdered, citizens tortured, with the unwillingness of the government to shed light on the disappearances, detentions incommunicado, the extra- judicial killings of members of the security and armed forces, the brutal murder of student demonstrators, the murder of 55 West African national including 44 Ghanaians, the murder of Journalist Deyda Hydra, and a former Finance secretary of state Ousman Koro Ceesay, the Jammeh government continue to score well with a US base Street basketball federation that most recently concluded a Miss Black USA contest…

    These are some of the challenges the African continent is facing. The degree of recognition and assistance military rulers enjoy as a result of the forces of globalization irrespective of systematic and widespread human rights abuses must be condemned in all fronts of the civilized world. It is about that time when the forces of globalization must continually be used in enforcing the universal recognition and respect for fundamental human rights than to lay the building block for totalitarianism and absurd brutality.

Source: Minteh, S. Binneh, “African dictators and the forces of Globalization.” Senegambia News. April 15th, 2007. http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogEntryID=2035.

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