Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Millennium Challenges: Ethiopian Millennium and African Globalization- are they compatible?

Ethiopia: Country Should Be Integrated With Africans And Not With the Western World
The Reporter (Addis Ababa)
7 July 2007
Posted to the web 9 July 2007
Yemane Nagish

Prof. K. Mathew, an Indian by origin, is now an instructor in Addis Ababa University in the Department of Political Science and International Relations since 2003. Before that he was at the University of Delhi in India where he was professor of African studies for 12-years. He had also worked at the Universities of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Lagos, Nigeria. He has been teaching mainly African Politics and International Relations. Prof. K. Mathew has contributed number of Articles dealing with African problems and issues.

He is the author of the books Foreign Policy of Tanzania and "Africa, India & South-South cooperation" which is a recent publication; he talked to Yemane Nagish of The Reporter Excerpts.
Could you describe the concept of globalization and its main features?

The simplest definition of globalization is its closer integration of countries around the world. And a step further, it is the means of increasing closer connectivity/interdependence in the economic, social, cultural, technological and ecological space

It can also be best understood as an umbrella term as a unitary process which includes main sub-processes such as enhanced economic interdependence, increased cultural influence, rapid expansion of information technology, noble governments and political challenges, that are increasingly binding people tightly into the global system.

Because of this, globalization basically means economic, social, political and cultural integration among the countries of the world. This has been facilitated by recent developments in science and technology, particularly in information technology, transport, communication and the emergence of what you call the global village as a result of various developments.

How has globalization historically emerged?

As far as the history of globalization is concerned, even though the word "globalization" is somewhat a new word, the actual process of globalization, one can say, started many centuries back, when, for example, the Europeans were able to discover new areas like the western hemisphere when Christopher Columbus in 1492 discovered the new world and started the era of geographical discoveries.

It is also facilitated by many developments in science and technology. Then in the 18th century there came the era of industrial revolution. As a result, there was also the need for apprehension of the European Economics to expand and that led to the period of colonization.

From the 16th to the 18th century Britain and the rest of Europe colonized almost the whole of the world, including the new world, US, and later on Latin America and in the 19th century the continent of Asia and Africa. The colonization itself was a process of globalization. When we come to the 20th century we have the new discoveries in terms of communication and air transportation. And then WWI and WWII increased the opportunities for the colonized people to move from one country to another.

After WWII, the New World Order (NOW) was created and evolved, in which, not only the US but also international financial institutions were created to deal with global problems, global issues like trade. One of the most important purposes was to create a world in which there is more free flow of factor of production, open economy, free trade, free flow of capital etc. This in fact led for the attempt starting from the WWII to create various world organizations like the World Band, IMF and WTO. Free trade was one of the objectives of the developed countries to get access to the resources of the world. And this has been achieved in the creation of WTO in 1994.

But in the last 20 to 25 years, there has been a wider process that has been taking place as a result of various factors and developments which came to be described as the process of economic globalization along which there was also cultural globalization in a sense of developing a global culture, particularly the western culture influencing the rest of the world.

What about the emergence of globalization in Africa?

As far as Africa was concerned, the spread of Christianity came largely with colonization. Of course, in the case of Ethiopia, Christianity came much earlier. As a result of the process of cultural globalization, which of course you can say even in the 7th century the coming of Islam to Africa, was also part of an aspect of globalization.

With colonialism also came the spread of education; English and French languages were also another aspect of globalization; these and other aspects of cultural globalizations developed.

In fact very little of political globalization has taken place, in terms of organizing the world. The world was under the colonial countries. As far as the Europeans were concerned, the colonized people were not part of the system of the international arrangements. Later on anti-colonial movements in different parts of the world started in Latin America, then in Asia, and finally in Africa which led to the independence of countries, and inaugurated a new era in international relations.
What do you think is the negative impact of globalization on Africa?

As far as the African countries are concerned, they are still under the domination of the colonial powers. The colonial powers want to take advantage of the dominant-subordinate relationship. One is familiar with the impact that globalization had on all African countries' economy, culture and politics. It transformed itself from the pre-colonial period to the colonial period.

Ethiopia: Country Should Be Integrated With Africans And Not With the Western World
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Even after independence, the influence of the colonial powers in terms of the cultural, political and economic dominance continued. That was the main aspect of Africa's globalization

In fact, globalization as a process has been affecting the whole world. It is a process in which every part of the world is involved. The new technology and open market, trade system is developed. Many countries are able to take advantage of the process.

The US is the second privileged as a result of the European globalization. Over the last 2-3 centuries the US developed as a result of the benefit that she drew from the process. With the impact of globalization, it is a process which all countries could take advantage of in the same place. But only some countries were able to take advantage because globalization is mainly based on the principle of free trade, open border and making the economy open and creating a global market.

In the integrated international economic system not every country is able to get benefits. Only the countries which were probably able to produce attractive goods and mobile use of the facilities that are provided by globalization and the rules of free trade extra were able to do so. The western countries have these special facilities because they are once developed. Hence, globalization is a device created by the western countries to get access in the post-colonial period to the market and the resources of the countries all over the world.

These countries were able to develop infrastructures and industries. In the post-world war II period, for example, some of the Asian countries, at the earlier period, were at the level of African countries. In terms of development, because of their ability to take advantage of the process, countries like the Asian tigers, (S. Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong) were able to be extremely rich. China and India were also able to take advantage of it and their economy grew. Japan had done it before.

What do you think about Africa?

In the case of African countries, mainly as a result of colonialism and recent problems that can't be solved after colonization, they were not in a position to take advantage of the facilities which were offered by the globalization phenomenon. In the 1960s, some of the African countries were at the same level with some of the Asian countries.

But because of the lack of supporting conditions (external and internal) and because of the trend that many African countries do not have the necessary conditions, in terms of developed manpower, and developed economic system, the absence of good governance and many Africans countries continued in production of primary goods: agricultural goods. The prices of these goods, whether it's fair, are set by international institutions, in which they have very little control and influence. And as a result, the policies of these financial institutions followed into relations dealing with African economic crises.

In the 1970/80s, they imposed what are known as Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP). These policies were sort of conditionality imposed for getting aid from the financial institutions. These policies do not possess any sort of industrialization or any economic development versus these conditions. And because of the lack of good governance, matured elites, and their economy gradually collapsed.
Globalization itself is neither good nor bad.

It is the process that is taking place. Hence, it is whether a county is able to formulate their policy in such away that reduces or eliminates the exploitative elements. The rules of the game which are framed by developed countries which are interested in material development are not necessary in developing the poor countries, respecting this culture and their indigenous system.

They of course made these countries believe the theory of globalization which says if the whole economy grows every one will be benefited, that is the theory known as trickle down theory. But experience shows that very little of that takes place.

Would you give us an elaboration on this?
In fact the whole global economy has grown. But the main problem is growth was not redistributed. There's very little concern for economic and social justice. The poverty in most of the countries increased while the wealth of few individuals increased and this led to inequalities and social problems.

In recent years, if wars and terrorism increased that is because of the dissatisfaction created by inherited injustice operation of the globalization process.

It becomes a factor which almost destroys the economic sovereignty of the poor countries. They have no power to determine the eco-policies, either Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs).

These all, afterwards, have been told what to do in terms of their economic policies, whether it is the exchange rate, any aspect of trade they should continue to produce items and goods in which they are compatible advantage, rather than trying to develop independent policies. And of course no state has developed true development strategy, depending on agriculture. In fact, all these countries which are developed, whether it's India, China, the Asian countries, they all gave priority to some of the important areas like creating skilled manpower which, of course, requires education.

But the western powers tell the African countries not to spend on social services like education but on producing goods. This led to the deterioration of the situation in the countries. Over this, they are not able to develop sufficient skilled manpower or skills that could be developed autonomously.

Dependent development becomes the main factor of economic development. As a result of dependency and prescriptions given by the western powers internal and external mismanagement and inefficiency. What had been developed becomes more developed while the poor become poorer over 32 out of the 48 least developed countries are in Africa.

Ethiopia: Country Should Be Integrated With Africans And Not With the Western World
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What measures have African countries taken to deal with those problem?
The way Africa is now trying to develop new strategies for future developments, whether in the form of new partnerships for Africa's development, African future strategy development is very important. At least one thing is clear: the African states system that has been created by the European colonial powers has failed in its present form to develop these countries. Most of these countries are individually very weak and vulnerable and they are in the scope of autonomous development.

Africa is left with no choice but integrated development. In this sense the decision to transform from OAU to a powerful and more integrated AU and the decision to establish an African economic community are important stages.

And of course there is a controversy between whether Africa should be integrated at the continental level or at the regional level, maybe a continuation of both. In that aspect the latest decision of the AU had gone much further to create a union government for Africa by 2009 and develop infrastructure for developing an African government. And by 2015 it has planned to establish a United States of Africa. This is a very significant development.

If Africa developed an integrated economy, Africa will have better bargaining power in any international forum and international financial institutions. That is a very important step that Africa is rightly taking.
In this difficult situation, what do we expect from the African countries?
But more than that African nations should start thinking in terms of devising their own strategy for development rather than strategy of dependence or hopping to get aid from the developed countries.

Of course from these days aid, dependence and trade relation is important. But that can't be a guarantee to sustainable development. In fact, in 2005 G-8 summits promised a huge amount of support for Africa something like USD 50 billion a year. But yet noting has been implemented. There is no guarantee whether this money will come to Africa and/or this many be really spent. But African development ultimately will be a responsibility for Africans themselves.

Africa along with the like-minded countries of Latin America and Asia must now strive to change the rules of the game. Colonialism has been over but the institutions created then still exist. Africa is still less represented in the international financial institutions; the World Bank and IMF are under the control of the western countries; trade relations are also controlled by them. Their polices are highly influenced by MNCs, who have their own interest; that is profit making rather than improving the life of the people in the underdeveloped countries
There is now an economic globalization but politically there is total anarchy. The rich countries (eg. America) can do anything. But there is very little concern for global justice or development of the poor regions. The world is in fact in a critical point. The important thing is to create some sort of a democratic governance system in the world as a whole. What the western countries are advising African countries to create democracy, participation and some sort of system of majority rule should be created at the global level too.
How do you evaluate the position of Ethiopia in the AU and its role in responding to the evils of globalization?

Ethiopia has sort of a unique position in the African system. Ethiopia has successfully resisted globalization through not allowing Italy to colonize her territory through victory in Adwa. Ethiopia traditionally also isolated itself from global involvements during the reign of Emperor Haile-Selassie period. Now Ethiopia is very much part of the African political system.

Ethiopia, apart from other Africa countries, is less influenced by globalization. Addis Ababa is an international city.

Ethiopia is still able to maintain its traditional culture, custom, and calendar. Ethiopia is a unique state. Therefore, Ethiopia is expected to give direction to other African countries in terms of how African states should keep and develop their own identity, culture and play a more active rule in Africa. Ethiopia should show other African states how it developed and keept its culture. Ethiopia, as it has done previously, should work on how African states can be more integrated.
Ethiopia should be integrated with Africans and not with the western world. So Ethiopia is expected to take the leadership role. In this regard, Ethiopia has a unique experience because it has been able to bring the Monrovia and Casablanca group into one at the early establishment of OAU.

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