In most African countries, the prices of basic commodies are greatly linked to the price of fuel. This could be attributed to the cost of transportation which increases with fuel price increases and the high elasticity of local demands which make it easier for the consumers to bear the biggest brunt of any increases. This no doubt makes one sees how the capitalist system is working harder than ever to increase the chasm between rich and poor. The removal of the fuel subsidy in Nigeria and the mayhem that followed seem to have been the test-drive by the IMF and World Bank. Since protests in Nigeria did not have much impact, there is now consideration of covering more grounds. Cameroon happens to be next in line – but unlike Nigeria that recieved so much attention, I will not be suprised if ‘France-dominated Cameroon’s removal goes unnoticed.

The thought of it has however made me go back to look at an article I wrote for FabAfrique Magazine  on the ‘Red Gold’. If the problem of black gold has been subsidies, what exactly is the problem of this resource?

Palm Fruits cut in half

Over the last few months I have not ceased to wonder if Africa would have been better-off without all the abundance of natural resources. What with all the appellations like Collier’s ‘Natural Resource Trap’, the ‘Natural Resource Curse’ or most strangely, the one that beats me most, the ‘Dutch Disease’[1]. The paradox of a blessing being a curse at the same time, is one too complex for my little head to fathom. But behold, the evidence is overwhelming and I cannot pretend not to see it – the conflict that seems to accompany natural resources and the widespread poverty in Africa – a land of affluence.

It is a fact that Africa is blessed with rich soil that permits it to grow almost everything needed for mankind’s existence. There’s cocoa for chocolate, and its related products, coffee for tea, timber for construction and the making of wooden instruments and paper, cotton for clothing, palm for palm oil, and many others.

Africa is also flooded with natural resources that the world largely depends on. Amongst these are gold, copper, bauxite, diamond, and the one that is usually called “black gold”, crude oil. Another form of “gold” has come up today, which I term “red gold”. This is crude palm oil that amounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Cameroon. And it is these countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm oil production in Africa.

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that diamonds are responsible for Sierra Leone’s worst nightmare, that Nigeria’s fuel subsidy crisis is a manifestation of the case of a country ‘living at the banks of a river and washing its hands with spittle’, that the civil war in the Congo and the Libyan crisis are cases where resources have made people wolf unto their brothers – just to name a few.

Am I deliberately leaving out Cameroon here? This should not have been surprising since World Bank Director Paul Collier in his award winning book The Bottom Billion deliberately leaves out Cameroon in most serious discussions and only mentions it briefly when referring to the depletion of resources in the Country.

I am not going to delve into questioning why Cameroon seems so much under the radar or where the depleted resources have gone to, but I am bound by conscience to wonder if Cameroon is free from the resource curse. I am going to take a look at just one resource here – what I call The ‘Red Gold’. This is crude palm oil that accounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. These are the countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm production in Africa.

The Republic of Cameroon which ranks fourth in crude palm oil production in Africa according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has crude palm oil as one of its main agricultural products. The country which is fondly called ‘Africa in miniature’ can boost of a yearly production of about 200,000 tons of palm oil. In 2011, production was 210,000 tons up from the previous 200,000 tons.

Crude palm oil which has always been a part of the

Local Palm Oil Processing

people of much of West Africa, and Cameroon in particular actually gained industrial prominence in 1910 when the Germans established industrial plantation units around Edea under the Société de Palmerais de la Ferme Suisse. Then, came the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), in the 1940s. And later on the PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd.

Palm oil production in Cameroon is highly favored by the tropical climate that consist of 4 to 5 months of dry season, and about 7 to 8 months of rainy season, coupled with the South West Monsoon wind that blows across the coast of the country where large agro industrial corporations like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) is situated, including the Palm Oil Corporation of Cameroon (PAMOIL), the Manyu Oil Palm Initiative. Independent farmers too, are involved in this highly lucrative business, and most of them have come under the Cameroon Association of Palm Oil Producers, headed by Claude Leonard Mpouma, and the Small Holders Scheme.

Large farms of palm nuts used in the production of palm oil which covers about 170,000 hectares can be seen mainly in the South West, South, Littoral, Centre and East.

This new form of “Red Gold” generates a yearly income of more 200 billion FCFA, about 400 million dollars, and provides about 65,000 indirect and direct jobs.

Because of the high quality of Cameroon’s crude red palm oil; which is cholesterol free and rich in vitamin E, there’s high demand for it at home and abroad. If it is not demanded for cooking, it is demanded for the making of soap and other cosmetic products found in the greatest shops around the world.

The exponential growth in demand has meant the supply is lagging as local production fails to grow simultaneously thanks to the poor state of farm-to-market roads, crude or rudimentary machines used by some small holders and the poor quality of some of the seedlings causing am almost 100% increase in the price of palm oil from the official 450frs CFA (almost a dollar) to about 750frs CFA in the black market. This poses a problem given that a majority of Cameroonians in the local areas live on less than a dollar a day. Much like Black Gold, this resource seems to be going down the road of becoming too expensive for the ordinary man.

The State of Most Cameroonian roads – Source: Cameroon Today Newspaper

While one could be optimistic enough to say that the future of palm oil in Cameroon is bright because of the ‘tarring’ of some farm-to-market roads, like the famous Kumba-Buea stretch of road, the widening of the Douala –Yaoundé road, and the provision of high yielding palm seedlings to farmers by structures like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd, Programme de Developémment de Palmerais Villageois(PDPV), which also coordinates the activities of small holders farmers, the question that remains unanswered is whether these modest achievements are worth commending in a country so richly blessed

Maybe I am not being reasonable here, given that the government has signed many agreements in favor of the farmers and in 2010, it jointly launched a project with the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Africa’s biggest producer of palm oil) aimed at generating income in the palm oil sector in four years time, supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Common Fund for Commodities.   Recently, Cameroon and UNIDO reached a deal in Vienna, Austria to promote the industrialization of palm oil production in Cameroon. Following this programme, four pilot centres were chosen; the Agro Industrial Unit in Bora in the East, Massoumbou Gardens in Littoral, the Agro Industrial Development Company in the South and the Manya Oil Palm Cooperative in the South West. This will certainly bridge the gap between demand and supply which requires the creation of about 20,000 hectares of palm tree farms yearly.

Modern Palm Oil Processing

These are wonderful efforts with great prospects but history and the reality of international trade dampen my hilarity. It is true that today, for the first time, most African countries have made the most impressive breakthrough into global markets for goods and services other than just primary products, it is also true that most of the firms established during the colonial era,[2] still continue to play a major role in the export-import trade of the now independent States which were their former colonial preserves. Most of these pay very low prices for the cash crops they export to Europe while they set very high prices for the finished products they import for sale in Africa. Also, the major share of their profits is sent back to their home countries rather than being invested in the African economies where the profits are made. This has the unfortunate effect that a structural imbalance is created in the African economies resulting from their over dependence on the export of one of few primary products and this makes their economies extremely vulnerable to external factors and seriously hinders their internal development.

This is my fear for the future of ‘Red Gold’.

[1] The Dutch disease is an economic concept that explains the apparent relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector.

[2] e.g. UAC which is now Unilever

EUSA vs Zimbabwe, Bailout vs But Out,and Other Fun Economy

The results of US and EU bailouts manifest in Mass Protests, the first Mass Strikes in the USA for Decades, a London Suburb where We The People gave a little taste of what is to come when they loose it, Mass Demonstrations and Clashes in Greece, Spain, Italy, and there is more to come in 2012. True, Occupy Wall Street and similar Manifestations in Europe are Trojan Horses, but they are an undeniable signal, indicating the fact that a large segment of otherwise well conditioned, placid populations have had so much of it that they are willing to get out into the streets and actually freeze and risk confronting the new Western Militarized Police Forces that would have left Orwell in astonishment.

The Western Bailout model had some other pretty consequences too. The Dow Jones finished 2011 at 12.217,5 which equaled a Dow/Gold ratio of 7.8, and during the first month of 2012 alone the Dow surged another 3 % DowNwards. The “real value” of the US Stock Market will most likely be ending 2012 with having lost some 85 % of it´s real value. So much to the BailOut Model of the EUSA.

I suggest that investment in Zimbabwe is a much more sound proposition than dealing in BailOut markets. Contrary to EUSAS bailouts that literally rip off entire populations, including medium and small investors who try to save for their family or otium, Zimbabwe seems to implement the model of Comply or BUT OUT.

Zimbabwe´s BUT OUT MODEL is among other manifesting in the fact that “undercapitalized banks” have been shown the boot that will be butting them out unless they comply with the regulations of Zimbabwe´s banking sector.

Yesterday the Governor of Zimbabwe´s Reserve Bank, Governor Dr. Gideon Gono informed journalists, and the banking sector, that there would be no other dead-line than the one already set at two weeks. By February 14 all undercapitalized banks should finalize their ongoing initiatives to meet minimum requirements, suggesting that some of the banks could merge, as he had advised before. In other incidents share holders would need to dilute their stake to inject fresh funds to save banks, instead of clinging to their shareholding.

The banks most likely to be confronted with Dr. Gono´s and Zimbabwe´s BUT OUT BOOT are Royal, ZABG and Genesis Investment Bank. Zimbabwe´s Finance Minister Tendai Biti advised that share holders should consider if it was wise to hold on to old ownership structures, and then to go under with a 100 % shareholding.

Comparing Zimbabwe´s sound BUT OUT MODEL, I would suggest that investing in Zimbabwe is a far more sound idea than investing at a drug and drug money dependent Wall Street, where the gamble is about whether one is lucky to invest in one of the crime cartels that are too big to fail – and even if one is lucky enough to win that gamble, one is assured that ones stock will be loosing 85 % of it´s real value during 2012 ?

Bailout ? Or But OUT !!! It´s Your Funeral so You decide for Yourselves. I know where I would be investing my money. Considering the Dow/Gold Ratio and the fact that we can expect the real value of EUSA´s stocks to loose 85 % in 2012, I´d invest in Gold, and keep a good part of it, safely at a Bank in Zimbabwe.

Source: Christof Lehmann (nsnbc Editor)


The Truth About the Situation in Libya

By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition 

Aug 13 - Stop Bombing LibyaLibya is a small country of just over 6 million people but it possesses the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The oil produced there is especially coveted because of its particularly high quality.

The Air Force of the United States along with Britain and France has carried out 7,459 bombing attacks since March 19. Britain, France and the United States sent special operation ground forces and commando units to direct the military operations of the so-called rebel fighters – it is a NATO- led army in the field.

The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” Their new weapons and billions in funds come from the U.S. and other NATO powers that froze and seized Libya’s assets in Western banks. Their only military successes outside of Benghazi, in the far east of the country, have been exclusively based on the coordinated air and ground operations of the imperialist NATO military forces.

In military terms, Libya’s resistance to NATO is of David and Goliath proportions. U.S. military spending alone is more than ten times greater than Libya’s entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was $74.2 billion in 2010, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

In recent weeks, the NATO military operations used surveillance-collecting drones, satellites, mounting aerial attacks and covert commando units to decapitate Libya’s military and political leadership and its command and control capabilities. Global economic sanctions meant that the country was suddenly deprived of income and secure access to goods and services needed to sustain a civilian economy over a long period.

“The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22.

A False Pretext

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy targeted the Libyan government for overthrow or “regime change” not because these governments were worried about protecting civilians or to bring about a more democratic form of governance in Libya.

If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution.

The Saudi monarchy is protected by U.S. imperialism because it is part of an undeclared but real U.S. sphere of influence and it is the largest producer of oil in the world. The U.S. attitude toward the Saudi monarchy was put succinctly by Ronald Reagan in 1981, when he said that the U.S. government “will not permit” revolution in Saudi Arabia such as the 1979 Iranian revolution that removed the U.S. client regime of the Shah. Reagan’s message was clear: the Pentagon and CIA’s military forces would be used decisively to destroy any democratic movement against the rule of the Saudi royal family.

Reagan’s explicit statement in 1981 has in fact been the policy of every successive U.S. administration, including the current one.

Libya and Imperialism

Libya, unlike Saudi Arabia, did have a revolution against its monarchy. As a result of the 1969 revolution led by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was no longer in the sphere of influence of any imperialist country.

Libya had once been an impoverished colony of Italy living under the boot heel of the fascist Mussolini. After the Allied victory in World War II, control of the country was formally transferred to the United Nations and Libya became independent in 1951 with authority vested in the monarch King Idris.

But in actuality, Libya was controlled by the United States and Britain until the 1969 revolution.

One of the first acts of the 1969 revolution was to eliminate the vestiges of colonialism and foreign control. Not only were oil fields nationalized but Gaddafi eliminated foreign military bases inside the country.

In March of 1970, the Gaddafi government shut down two important British military bases in Tobruk and El Adem. He then became the Pentagon’s enemy when he evicted the U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli that had been operated by the United States since 1945. Before the British military took control in 1943, the facility was a base operated by the Italians under Mussolini.

Wheelus had been an important Strategic Air Command (SAC) base during the Cold War, housing B-52 bombers and other front-line Pentagon aircrafts that targeted the Soviet Union.

Once under Libyan control, the Gaddafi government allowed Soviet military planes to access the airfield.

In 1986, the Pentagon heavily bombed the base at the same time it bombed downtown Tripoli in an effort to assassinate Gaddafi. That effort failed but his 2-year-old daughter died along with scores of other civilians.

The Character of the Gaddafi Regime

The political, social and class orientation of the Libyan regime has gone through several stages in the last four decades. The government and ruling establishment reflected contradictory class, social, religious and regional antagonisms. The fact that the leadership of the NATO-led National Transition Council is comprised of top officials of the Gaddafi government, who broke with the regime and allied themselves with NATO, is emblematic of the decades-long instability within the Libyan establishment.

These inherent contradictions were exacerbated by pressures applied to Libya from the outside. The U.S. imposed far-reaching economic sanctions on Libya in the 1980s. The largest western corporations were barred from doing business with Libya and the country was denied access to credit from western banks.

In its foreign policy, Libya gave significant financial and military support to national liberation struggles, including in Palestine, Southern Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.

Because of Libya’s economic policies, living standards for the population had jumped dramatically after 1969. Having a small population and substantial income from its oil production, augmented with the Gaddafi regime’s far-reaching policy of social benefits, created a huge advance in the social and economic status for the population. Libya was still a class society with rich and poor, and gaps between urban and rural living standards, but illiteracy was basically wiped out, while education and health care were free and extensively accessible. By 2010, the per capita income in Libya was near the highest in Africa at $14,000 and life expectancy rose to over 77 years, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book.

Gaddafi’s political orientation explicitly rejected communism and capitalism. He created an ideology called the “Third International Theory,” which was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Arab nationalist and socialist ideas and programs. In 1977, Libya was renamed the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. A great deal of industry, including oil, was nationalized and the government provided an expansive social insurance program or what is called a welfare state policy akin to some features prevalent in the Soviet Union and some West European capitalist countries.

But Libya was not a workers’ state or a “socialist government” to use the popular if not scientific use of the term “socialist.” The revolution was not a workers and peasant rebellion against the capitalist class per se. Libya remained a class society although class differentiation may have been somewhat obscured beneath the existence of revolutionary committees and the radical, populist rhetoric that emanated from the regime.

As in many developing, formerly colonized countries, state ownership of property was not “socialist” but rather a necessary fortification of an under-developed capitalist class. State property in Iraq, Libya and other such post-colonial regimes was designed to facilitate the social and economic growth of a new capitalist ruling class that was initially too weak, too deprived of capital and too cut off from international credit to compete on its own terms with the dominant sectors of world monopoly capitalism. The nascent capitalist classes in such developing economies promoted state-owned property, under their control, in order to intersect with Western banks and transnational corporations and create more favorable terms for global trade and investment.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “socialist bloc” governments of central and Eastern Europe in 1989-91 deprived Libya of an economic and military counter-weight to the United States, and the Libyan government’s domestic economic and foreign policy shifted towards accommodation with the West.

In the 1990s some sectors of the Libyan economic establishment and the Gaddafi-led government favored privatization, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and integration into western European markets.

The earlier populism of the regime incrementally gave way to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. This was, however, a long process.

In 2004, the George W. Bush administration ended sanctions on Libya. Western oil companies and banks and other corporations initiated huge direct investments in Libya and trade with Libyan enterprises.

There was also a growth of unemployment in Libya and in cutbacks in social spending, leading to further inequality between rich and poor and class polarization.

But Gaddafi himself was still considered a thorn in the side of the imperialist powers. They want absolute puppets, not simply partners, in their plans for exploitation. The Wikileaks release of State Department cables between 2007 and 2010 show that the United states and western oil companies were condemning Gaddafi for what they called “resource nationalism.” Gaddafi even threatened to re-nationalize western oil companies’ property unless Libya was granted a larger share of the revenue for their projects.

As an article in today’s New York Times Business section said honestly: “”Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for the international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with.”

Even the most recent CIA Fact Book publication on Libya, written before the armed revolt championed by NATO, complained of the measured tempo of pro-market reforms in Libya: “Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps— including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization—are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.” (CIA World Fact Book)

The beginning of the armed revolt on February 23 by disaffected members of the Libyan military and political establishment provided the opportunity for the U.S. imperialists, in league with their French and British counterparts, to militarily overthrow the Libyan government and replace it with a client or stooge regime.

Of course, in the revolt were workers and young people who had many legitimate grievances against the Libyan government. But what is critical in an armed struggle for state power is not the composition of the rank-and-file soldiers, but the class character and political orientation of the leadership.

Character of the National Transition Council

The National Transitional Council (NTC) constituted itself as the leadership of the uprising in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. The central leader is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who was Libya’s Minister of Justice until his defection at the start of the uprising. He was one of a significant number of Western-oriented and neoliberal officials from Libya’s government, diplomatic corps and military ranks who joined the opposition in the days immediately after the start of the revolt.

As soon as it was established, the NTC began issuing calls for imperialist intervention. These appeals became increasing panicky as it became clear that, contrary to early predictions that the Gaddafi-led government would collapse in a matter of days, it was the “rebels” who faced imminent defeat in the civil war. In fact, it was only due to the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, initiated with great hurry on March 19 that the rebellion did not collapse.

The last five months of war have erased any doubt about the pro-imperialist character of the NTC. One striking episode took place on April 22, when Senator John McCain made a “surprise” trip to Benghazi. A huge banner was unveiled to greet him with an American flag printed on it and the words: “United States of America – You have a new ally in North Africa.”

Similar to the military relationship between the NATO and Libyan “rebel” armed forces, the NTC is entirely dependent on and subordinated to the U.S., French, British and Italian imperialist governments.

If the Pentagon, CIA, and Wall Street succeed in installing a client regime in Tripoli it will accelerate and embolden the imperialist threats and intervention against other independent governments such as Syria and Venezuela. In each case we will see a similar process unfold, including the demonization of the leadership of the targeted countries so as to silence or mute a militant anti-war response to the aggression of the war-makers.

We in the ANSWER Coalition invite all those who share this perspective to join with us, to mobilize, and to unmask the colonial agenda that hides under the slogan of “humanitarian intervention.”


It is Santayana who rightly pointed out that those who forget their history are bound to repeat it. Despite all the negative aspersions that have been cast on history over time, especially given the biases that accompany some historical works, history as a record of a people’s past is something that cannot be taken lightly.

AAttending an event last week at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (where Prof. Sugata Bose launched his book His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire) happens to have been my waking call from a dogmatic slumber. The panel discussions, questions and contributions from the audience left a sour taste in my mouth. I used to be confident that I knew much about India’s pre and post colonial history from what I learned at school and could use these to analyse what is going on in their current political scene. I have never been more wrong. I realised how little I knew and how much was being left out. All through the discussions I could not help but remember Chimamanda in the Danger of a single story who points out that

“… There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

She goes on to state that “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.”” It will be difficult to refute the fact that there exist just this power, one that will be a bit elusive to situate, that has directed the telling of the Indian story. Begin the Indian story with independence, the break-off of Pakistan and we have a different story with Nehru and Gandhi at the foreground of events. However, begin this story by integrating the great role that Netaji Bose played in the fight for decolonisation and the role his ideas would have played had he been alive at the moment of independence and the story takes a completely new dimension.

It will be difficult to say how events would have played out had Bose lived on to independence. That however, is not an area for my speculation. What I cannot seem to get over is how a man who was in the picture till 1946 and who won an election in 1939 against Gandhi’s candidate, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, should be so obscure. I was really nonplussed when I realised that many of my Indian friends also did not know of this great icon? I was the one telling them! What else did they not know? I began to ponder. This was the biggest problem about a story being told from one perspective – it “…creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Some persons who know of Chandra Bose were bold in asserting that the man has been receiving recognition and that there are now monuments built in his honour and many people now bear his name. These are great ways of immortalizing a great man no doubt, but the million rupees question that ought to be asked is if Bose fought and died for India just so that he could be honoured. I certainly do not think so, as in his lifetime he did not seek personal agrandisment but sought the welfare of the Indian people. If there is one thing that should live on, it should not be simply the memory of a man, but the ideas that he sought to impart. Gandhi himself described Bose as a man whose ‘self sacrifice and suffering, drive, integrity and commitment to the national cause and the capacity to bind all Indians into one people were unsurpassed.” Strangely enough, it would seem that these wonderful qualities died with the man. We can all agree that many a great man has lived and died but their ideas are immortal. It is believed that Bose last words to his colleague, Habib-ur Rehman. were: ”I don’t think I will recover. So when you go back to India, do tell our countrymen that I tried my best to wrest freedom but they should continue their struggle until they succeed.”Another many-layered-hydraic question that needs answering is how ‘free’ India has become since gaining political ‘independence’.

If Keynes view that “Ideas shape the course of history” is anything to go by, then the question needs be asked as to What the implication is of the fact that India rode to independence on the tripod of three great ideological spheres but dropped one immediately on independence. What impact can it have on India as a rising power on the international scene? The answer to these questions inevitably will lay bare the fact that there is a logical jump from India’s pre-colonial history to her projections for future prowess.

Subhash Chandra Bose and Gandhi have been widely presented as having divergent views. While the two undoubtedly held different visions of how independence should look like, the common ground was that they were both great Indian Patriots who wanted the best for the Nation.  Bose who was influenced by the success of the five-year plans in the Soviet Union, advocated for a socialist nation with an industrialized economy. Gandhi was opposed to the very concept of industrialization. What independent india needed to have adopted is therefore a synthesis of all ideas so as to come out with a new thesis that will be peculiar to India, Bose had earlier made a solid argument that  “… common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called… “Samyavada” — an Indian word, which means literally “the doctrine of synthesis or equality.” It will be India’s task to work out this synthesis.” What I see today is clearly a failure by India to arrive at this synthesis and hence what I can conclude  is a failure at attaining independence. There seemed to have been only a transfer of power from the British to the Indians but the very structures which oppressed the Indian people under colonialism and which these great men fought to overcome seem to have been adopted if not fortified. It is my humble opinion then that if current trends persist, it will not be long before the ordinary Indians begin another struggle for ‘independence’ – albeit not from foreign oppressors but from internal structures that oppress them.

India, is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, second only to China. Growing at a rate which economies like that of the UK can never reach again even if they are recovering from a recession, this is India’s opportunity to make sure that she handles her internal issues else they will continue to serve as distractions from her accessing opportunities abroad. China has already realised this and has been focusing great energy in the mitigation of inequalities that exist within her borders. India has got great potential, but unless she comes to her own and adopt the non-voilence of Gandhi in home affairs but the ‘radical’ ideas of Netaji to thread the paths of   international politics, she risks becoming a power that will contain within herself the seeds of her destruction.  Long gone are the days when military might was the criteria for being a global power but even at that, economic might without a viable political strategy will be only a short term project.

As an emerging power, India therefore needs to be more assertive in her role as a Nation that understands the language of strive. She cannot do this by taking a neutral stance in happenings around the world. It was the South African, Desmond Tutu who pointed out that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” As a future super power, India will need countries like Chile, Nepal, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and even Libya and the time that she can get the support of such Nations is now, especially in the wake of several cases of gross violations of the right of sovereign States by the current world powers who have adopted the name “international community”. One lesson that can be drawn from the cold war is that no super power wants a rival. And will stop at nothing to stop any threats to the privileges of being a hegemon. For India therefore, to hinge the prospects of her becoming a superpower or getting a permanent seat in the UN security Council, (which she rightfully deserves)  to winning the favour of the US or Britain is to have lost it.


To say I expected this session to be emotional will be an understatement. For ten weeks we have had this stormy journey. Raising questions and attempting to answer them – only to realise the answers are questions in themselves. Many people had thrown in the towel and considered the question of ‘development’ one with a forgone conclusion – failure. Nothing seems to have changed since the so much talk about development. Was it worth all the trouble? This is surely what happens when a discipline spends so much time reflecting on itself rather than on the world. It happened with philosophy as it got caught in the ‘fly bottle of linguistic analysis’ so it is not surprising that it is happening to Development studies. Fortunately, IDD seems to have sensed this and places emphasis on linking theory and practice; the raison d’être for some of us who thought there was still something worth investigating. I can boldly affirm that these ten weeks have made me realise how lucky I am to have engaged in the quest.

I happened to have been at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office today for a POLSIS Study visit and in the few hours that we spent discussing with Alison Kemp (Joint Head, Policy Unit): FCO foreign policy priorities; Sara Everett (Deputy Head, Afghanistan Group): Afghanistan and  Greg Quinn (Head, UN Political Team, International Organisations Department): UN issues, several things we have discussed in the past few weeks took shape. I was able to put my questions to decision makers and hear their views about some of these issues. and was able to arrive at some conclusions…

First of all, the I came to the conclusion that the importance of understanding theory as a prelude to understanding the whole concept of development cannot be overemphasised. This understanding will leave little doubt that developments and politics are intricately interwoven.

Secondly, I was able to conclude that politics was indeed the most dominant variable in any discussion in development and that a talk on international politics could not go unsustained for long if it is not talking about issues of development. International Politics is inverted international development – was my ultimate conclusion. In the talk about foreign policy priorities – a talk which lasted about 20 minutes – Alison Kemp mentioned the term development (or sustainable development) about 8 times (once every 2.5 mins) a clear indication that issues of development were top on the priorities of the FCO.

Third any talk about ‘pro-poor’ politics is simply a charade. Any politics claiming to be aimed at the poor is simply a part of a bigger complex scheme. The endgame never benefit the poor – rather they suffer more when it goes wrong. The question I asked the Head of the UN political team was a simple one: why does the UN use economic sanctions on people like Mugabe and Abacha when they know very well that these people will not care a hoot if the country suffers, given that they will never go a day without their sumptuous meals no matter how harsh the sanction? Who suffers more from an economic sanction? If we can all answer that it is  THE POOR… then the soul-searching question will be if the UN in its politics is not pro-poor, where do we begin a discussion on pro-poor politics in an international forum?

Fourthly, the issue of ‘failed states’ is one that cannot be wished away easily. The fact that the concept is riddled with controversies, notwithstanding, the deputy head of the Afghan group used it several times in his description of Afghanistan. When he acknowledged the fact that 1979 arming of the Taliban was a great mistake, I could not help pointing to the fact that its result (Taliban support of Al Qaeda and the failure of the Afghan state) was being replicated in Libya.

Finally, the last conclusion I arrived at is that the nature of international politics was changing and it was going to take many by surprise.  The unprecedented rise of the Asian Tigers which challenged most of the conventional theories of development was simply the antiphon to a new era. Of course we should not have expected anything different if we recalled Marx stating in 1959 that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”

We have had the surprising rise of the BRICs but what should not surprise us is how China and India replay history in a refined manner. It was fascinating to see how Tom captured the concept of China’s trade relations to Africa… The many layered question is… Is it a dependency relationship or is it the flip side to modernisation? Difficult questions to answer but certainly thought-provoking.

One thing that stands out though is that China rose to power on the wings of communism and a ‘closed’ state and is now seeking to expand that power through Capitalist means. Maintaining communism at the home front and capitalism at the international level is a strategy that only time can tell its outcome. It however points to something… China is being flexible and to me that is ‘politics’ or better still ‘development politics’. Their recent neutrality in the resolution over Libya is yet another pointer of her cautious nature. China is avoiding any form of conflict while at the same time building an empire outside China.

In the final analysis, we can all begin anew by asking ourselves what actually is new in development. Is there something intrinsically new? Or are we simply filling new wine into old wineskins? Can they hold the new wine? Whatever the case it will do some good to remember Duncan’s words

… a focus on ‘what’s new’ runs the risk of ignoring ‘what isn’t new’, such as the bread and butter issues of development: reducing poverty; supporting active citizens and their efforts to build effective, accountable states; fighting for universal health care, education, access to water and food; and equal rights for all women and men.

The onus however lies in knowing the difference… and this I guess is what I have been able to learn from this module.


I trailed off last week on a bad mood. There were many things I could not understand. First I could not understand why there was so much talk about unity and peace in the  world but what we experience everyday is war and strife. Yes! I could not come to terms with the so many assassinations that took place within the last few years in Latin America. Secondly I could not understand why the US always seemed to come up where ever a carcass had been found. Is it simply because the US is the ‘policeman’ of the world or simply that it has become a vulture that feeds on carcasses? I especially could not understand why it is that the Post World War II era has seen so much being put in place to make the world better but today rather than count our successes, we have a whole session aimed at discussing our failures.

Could Heraclitus have been right to say that strife was justice? Could Machiavelli have been right to  argue that the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states and that the ruler is justified in doing whatever is necessary to maintain the country, even if it is unjust? Could Marx have been right to say that history has simply being the arena for struggles? Could it be that the world today has an affinity with the 19th century Social Darwinism with its believe in Natural Selection stating that the competitive struggle amongst species secures the survival of the fittest?

Do all these have anything to do with Clapham’s (2003) opinion that “States are organizations capable of maintaining a monopoly of violence over a defined territory, and of controlling, to a significant extent, the interactions between that territory and the world beyond it“  The operating word here seems to be ‘monopoly’ because states are often considered to be sovereign. But can we talk about monopoly when talking of Africa or Latin American states? If this definition is anything to go by, then it becomes easy to understand why it is still a Herculean task for any country that has had any form of alien occupation or direct intervention in their affairs to have a strong state. The two case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti  that were discussed have one thing in common and it is the fact that their travails began or accelerated not from within but from outside intervention in their internal affairs. If a foreign power is not supporting a dictator stay in power, then it is participating in killing the person who stands for the well-being of the nation.  

As Danielle went through the lecture, I was assuaged by the clarity with which the source of the problems of failed states was communicated. “State failure” I was able to conclude, was certainly not the ‘seminal seeds’ of any country, but rather it would seem that states fail because other states deny them that which makes them states – MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE.

While I was beginning to accept the whole idea that states fail because of something beyond their making, Danielle threw another bombshell with Rotberg’s (2002) view that  ‘Nation-states fail because they can no longer deliver positive political goods to their people. Their governments lose legitimacy and, in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens, the nation-state itself becomes illegitimate.’  ILLEGITIMATE? Who defines what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in the world today. Should it be Europe or the USA or the United Nations or … may be the World Bank or IMF or the WTO? We all sat and watched when the US supported the Taliban government in 1979 to fight the Soviet Union in a senseless Cold War and is still struggling to destroy it to fight Al Qaeda in a meaningful war against terrorism; We all are witnesses of George Bush and Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq even when the UN had ascertained there were no weapons of Mass destruction in the country. We all listened when Gaddafi made his +90 minute speech  (which has been edited in most versions available online) at the UN in which a Dictator was bold enough to point out the salient truths about the failures of the international community. We are all watching how that same international community is claiming legitimacy in invading Libya and even considering arming rebels in the name of freeing the Libyan people. Not forgetting how these same countries especially the UK have enriched themselves from selling arms to Gaddafi. WE WILL ALL BE WATCHING WHEN ANOTHER FAILED STATE IS CREATED IN NORTH AFRICA. And WE talk of illegitimacy and Legitimacy!!! In what language can any sane person justify the fact that deliberate creation of the conditions necessary for a civil war has ever been the best means of freeing a people from tyranny.

Unfortunately the whole issue itself is a dilemma, first the principles of the U.N. Charter, such as the right of nations to self-determination and the fact that the UN resolution required that the intervention in to Libya ‘use all necessary means’ to protect the people. If it were an international war, where the aggressor is trying to kill large numbers of civilians and destroy the enemy’s right to national self-determination, it is easy for the mind to grapple with. In internal unrest and civil war, however, the challenge of the intervention is to protect human rights without undermining national sovereignty or the right of national self-determination and this is a pill too complex to swallow. In Kosovo and now in Libya, they are said to be aimed at stopping a government from committing mass murder. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime – one thing however stands clear in all this…

Those intervening can claim to be carrying out a neutral humanitarian action, but in reality, they are intervening on one side’s behalf. If the intervention is successful — as it likely will be given that interventions are invariably by powerful countries against weaker ones — the practical result is to turn the victims into victors. By doing that, the humanitarian warriors are doing more than simply protecting the weak. They are also defining a nation’s history.

Strangely enough, I could not fail to also realise the many ambiguities with which the term ‘failed states’ was riddled. Looking at the failed states’ index during the seminar discussions, we could not help but wonder if it could be a veritable tool for any serious policy formulations. While the position of Somalia was not surprising, the position of many nations such as China, Afghanistan and even Belgium (which has no central government,) put the integrity of the index to question. This not withstanding, the reality is that some states have disintegrated and some more are on the way. Shocking that it is happening at a time when there is so much talk about a globalised world there is need for all a sundry to reevaluate our actions and positions on several issues. The effects of failed states will surely not remain with them… they will increasingly become everyone’s problems.

In a nutshell we can all hearken to Bryan Froehle’s point that “The greatest danger is when structure is placed above culture, rules above relationships. Rules are important; structures are vital. Yet . . . they are at the service of humanity and not the other way around.” If the international community were to examine their motives in every action very well and realise how futile its politics has been in the past half a century. 

I am happy some nations are aware of this and this is the reason we can still talk of rising powers. The fact that some states are rising despite all odds means we are not yet about to witness the end of our world. But can we dare to be optimistic? Can these ‘so called’ rising powers make a difference? Next week will say as we consider rising powers and Development politics.

World’s Largest ‘Democracy’ In Search of Gandhi

I had always thought that there was no such thing as ‘conjunction’. I had this tendency of writing it off as a mere association of ideas by people, as a result of the mind’s ability to move beyond space and time and bring things together. I have had too much within the last few weeks to simply wave them away. How can I ignore the fact that just last week Jude Thaddeus Langeh sent me a link to a book he had just published The Relevance of Gandhi’s Doctrine of NonViolence: Africa Needs Gandhi, and this week we had to watch a movie/documentary In Search Of Gandhi”. Going through the movie, two things struck me – first the fact that I began to question the notion of India being a “democracy” as I realised that the concept was itself suspect.  Secondly I realised there was a vast contrast between what Gandhi believed and professed and what the average Indian politician today believes. Not that I expected them to be similar, but there was this yawning gap between the ideology that created the nation and the ideologies that are aiming at sustaining and developing the Nation – a gap that cannot be ignored.

It is common knowledge that since independence, India has faced and still faces several challenges ranging from religious violence, casteism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. There are still high levels of poverty in a land of affluence and present trends suggest that the gap between the rich and the poor may be taking an upward trend. These are just a few of the visible problems which can be associated with India but as I went through the that movie, I could not help but notice that all of India’s visible problems are simply effects of an invisible problem, the problem of the ideologies that drive India’s day to day activities. What are these ideologies? What are their roots? Who benefits more from them – India or another Country or organisation? Have these ideologies been thoroughly examined to ascertain their suitability to the Indian experience, with some focus on her unique history and culture? These and many other questions kept running through my mind as the movie and discussions progressed. I could not stop myself from concluding that these questions and more where actually what needed addressing if one is to begin thinking about resolving issues not only in India but in most of the developing world today.

I immediately saw in India’s case a reflection of most of the Third World’s problems today. They had been caught in the whirlpool of globalisation illusions. And what this amounted to for any developing nation was the erosion of their ideological authenticity. While this may sound like painting a bleak picture, the reality is that even in the field of economics where globalisation can be said to be most successful, there is still a huge question mark. While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. To see Indian politicians involved in the reproduction of poverty and destitution in the name of creating Specialised Economic Zones made me feel like weeping. How could one in his right senses dig up a hole to fill another. Gandhi made what could have been considered to be a hard statement that “Western Democracy is a diluted form of Fascism.” At first I could not fully grasp what he meant especially with the oft-made statement that “India is the world’s largest democracy.”  After watching reading Langeh’s work and watching that movie, many pieces fell in to place – what people actually meant was that India was on the verge of becoming the world’s largest Fascism.

Pope Paul VI (1967 35, p. 22) held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” I  think that the first step for India should have been serious education of its people. An education which will lead to the total liberation of the Indian people, and not simply enslave them to some defunct economic and political ideologies as happens to be the case with many educated person in most third world countries. It can only be through mental liberation, that every Indian will regain the sense of personhood and the boldness of asserting it before the international community. What I instead saw was a case where poor people who could not afford basic education and shelter where being driven out of their homes in the name of attracting FDI. With an under-nourished population who will be able to regulate or even benefit from these investments?

The argument that day in class was that every country does some lobbying to attract FDI. This is where my problem lies. Every country is not the same and nations cannot simply do things because others are doing it. Can the Indian government regulate the activities of a Multinational Corporation in the same way the UK or the USA will do? I don’t think so.  Miller pointed out that  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, can there be any doubt as to why and how Shell was able to buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?

I hope I don’t get misunderstood here. It is not as if I have a problem with FDI or multinationals. Like  McCormick argues , “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.”

 I totally agree with him but what he fails to do is say in what direction the wealth is spread and whose standards of living is raised and who gains from the better ways of doing business. What he gets right though is that developing nations are competing fiercely for their investments. And this is where  I have another problem. This competition has made many so blind that they see only an end and neglect the means that will lead to that end.

According to Langeh’s analysis, Gandhi, was preoccupied with the problem of means and ends. In his Satyagraha, he propounds the non-duality of means and ends. The means precede the ends in time but there can be no question of moral priority. Truth is inseparable from non-violence and the method of achieving and clinging to the truth is non-violence. Gandhi therefore, referred to non-violence as being both the end and the means. He goes on to state that shortly before his death, Gandhi commented in a prayer speech in New Delhi that “means and ends are convertible terms.” The dialectics therefore that can lead to sustainable growth in Indian life and for most Third World Nations has to take this ideal as a thesis to begin with. Social progress and the good of all should be a prelude to economic development else all talk about economic development in the face of so much social injustice will amount to nothing but sophistry and illusions.

This however, will require a philosophical re-articulation of the Indian reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of Indians. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. When this is done, there will be little reason to go out in ‘search’ of Gandhi because the ideals he fought and died for will be there for all to see.

May be I am getting it all wrong. May be India is actually a democracy and the dividends are there for all to benefit but unfortunately some people happen to be looking at the wrong places or… may be they keep coming a bit late. May be the politically motivated religious violence that are threatening the very fabric of Indian society are all the benefits of this democracy. May be…  I do not know the meaning of ‘democracy’ in the first place and that is why I am getting it all wrong. Good enough a thing, next week’s lecture will be on ‘Democratisation and the State’ – though it will be looking at the case of Latin America, I will surely use the opportunity to lay to rest my confusion about the concept of democracy.

Pope Paul VI; (1967) On The Development Of Peoples of Boston: St Paul Books & Media



As one listens to speeches, participates in national and international conferences, takes a casual browse of television channels or simply log on to the internet it becomes difficult not to conclude that the world has really become a ‘global village’. When one however, also take some time to follow the proceedings of international conferences on climate change, the proceedings of the United Nations, or when one is confronted with news of war going on in Afghanistan, Iraq or threatening to begin between North Korea and South Korea; when one looks at the African and most third world economies where there exist so much to be done to meet up with the rest of the world; the critical mind cannot fail to question whether the so much talk about globalisation is not simply a façade. Many economists, political theorists, developmental agencies, governments and the academia have propounded myriads of positions to the question of globalisation but these seem to be more and more of rhetoric in the face of growing fragmentation in the world.

In this essay I explore the likelihood of the process of globalisation to slow down or even go into reverse in the future. It has five main sections. The first introduces the work by pointing out to some recent happenings in the world; the second looks at the general notion of globalisation trying to evaluate what globalisation is and what it is not; the third, drawing on the experience of third world countries in the areas of trade, growth of multinational corporations and migration, questions whether globalisation is a ‘myth’, the fourth section looks at the future of globalisation and points out certain things that need to be done to prevent the total reversal of the process of globalisation. This is then followed by a conclusion.

  1. Introduction:

On January 1, 2007, the great news was that two more countries from Eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania had joined the EU, bringing the number of member states to 27 countries while Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey were also candidates for future membership. As we entered 2011, a great number of Estonians are embracing the joining of their economy to the eurozone in spite of the deepening crisis of confidence in the single currency. This makes Estonia the 17th country to adopt the currency, while scepticism increases in some countries especially the United Kingdom. On the other side of the globe, over 1 million Zimbabweans face deportation from neighbouring South Africa for failure to get the necessary documentation to regularise their stay (Mlotshwa, 2011) and Sudanese began voting on the 9th of January, 2011, as part of a referendum that may create a new State in Africa some Eighteen years after Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Hence while some regions are converging, some are disintegrating. So what then is globalisation?

  1. 2.    Globalisation: Quid Sit?

Globalisation is not new. What is new however, is the understanding of globalisation which has been the basis of many debates. In this section I will therefore look at what globalisation is and what it is not.

2.1.        What Globalisation is:

It has been from the dawn of modern civilisation, the aspiration of dominant empires to universalise, or cause to be present world-wide, their socio-economic, political ideology and their way of life. It therefore involves the days of the European explorers and the era of the colonisers who scouted for slaves and empires to extend their political and economic strength. Globalisation became the new buzzword in 1990s and has been getting much attention since then. According to the proponents of globalisation, the benefits are myriad which inter alia include, heightened mobility of capital, increase growth of multinational corporations (MNCs), intensification of international economic interconnections, improvement of international trade, greater mobility of human resources across countries and greater outsourcing of business processes to other countries.

Globalisation is therefore defined as, “the growing economic interdependence of countries worldwide, through the increasing volume and variety of cross border transactions in goods and services and of capital flows as well as through the most rapid and widespread diffusion of technology.” (IMF, 1997) Also, it is “the increased interdependence of world economies, investment liberalisation and deregulated policies.” (Dembele, 1998, p.91)

these definitions place more emphasis on economic factors because of the complexity involved in capturing the concept of globalisation in a single definition. In fact, the simple truth is that the definition of globalisation cannot be globalised. Collier divides the economic aspects of globalisation into three – trade in goods, capital flows and migration of people – and states that they are “…so distinct that even the idea that economies have become more globalised depends upon which dimensions you take.” (Collier, 2007, p.80) Since I consider globalisation to be a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces and a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society I think its definition should of necessity include other issues like politics, religion, language and culture. I therefore tend to agree more with Held et al’s (1999) definition which gives a more general view of the concept of globalisation and argues that globalisation is not a singular process but a multidimensional force evident across the cultural, political, ecological, military and social domains Taking Held’s view I will look at some different domains such as politics, religion, culture and language to see if there is such a possibility in these areas. My intention will be to show that globalisation is actually none of these.

2.2.        What Globalisation Is Not

Politics: The political aspects of globalisation can be said to be when governments create international rules and institutions to deal with issues such as trade, human rights, and the environment. While some new institutions and rules that have come to fruition as a result of globalisation such as the World Trade Organization, the area of governance still leaves much to be desired. It would have been thought that with the collapse of communism and the USSR in 1990, there was going to be a greater degree of harmony in the world and that American liberal democracy was going to become the world system of politics. The reality of the world today has never been further from this. China and North Korea still maintain their versions of communism, In Europe and the USA, where there exist democracies, they are varied. Furthermore since the turn of the century, there has been more secessions and as I indicated in the beginning, Southern Sudan is set to become a new country as voting for secession began on 9 January, while the Southern Cameroons National Congress (SCNC) in Cameroon and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State Of Biafra (MASSOB) in Nigeria have not given up the struggle to separate the Nations. The end of the cold war rather ushered in a new system of increasing local, non-state and organisational conflicts hence there has been the ‘increasing localisation’ of conflicts. (Srnicek, 2010) I therefore feel that if there is increasing interdependence in the world today, it certainly is not in the area of politics.

Religion: Religion seems in no period in history to have been more of a divisive factor as it is today. While there are several religions in the world, the there is an increasing growth in the number of atheists and also an increasing call for secularism. This was greatly manifested during the Catholic Pontiff’s visit to the UK (msnbc.com 16/09/2010). While in the past, there have been attempts at universalising religion, such as the crusades and Jihads; it cannot even be conceived today. Terrorist attacks are given religious connotations and some try to justify their actions using religion, Christians and Muslims slaughter each other in many places like the recent case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79 on New Year’s Day. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam”. (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011) Even within Christianity there is no unity of purpose, which accounts for the massive proliferation of churches in many developing countries. And within Islam, there are several factions that have been the source of lingering conflicts in many Islamic states such as Iraq. The world is clearly not getting more interdependent in the religious sphere though there is need to mention that there have been some recent attempts to bring certain religions together in what has been called ‘inter-religious dialogues.’

Language: While language may be considered to be a very good tool in breaking down barriers between people and nations, it is clear that it cannot also be considered today to be a veritable tool for international integration. While there is no denying the fact that knowledge of English and some European languages opens a person’s world to almost all parts of the world, it is also a fact that a great number of people still do not understand these languages. Even within the same country, the official language is not spoken by all. (Welch is a UK language which many people in England do not understand and many people from Wales seldom communicate in English.  Also, Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya for 28 years in power speaks only French and cannot communicate in English even though the two languages are constitutionally, the official languages of the country). The increasing number of variants in what used to be ‘One’ English language is a mark of division and not of unity. (just checking on the language icon of my computer showed on Microsoft word 2007 19 different versions of English and 15 different versions of French). Increasing technological advancements in the world today which make high speed translations possible is an attempt to break this barrier.

Culture: The increasing spread of multiculturalism and better individual access to cultural diversity, for example through the exportation of Hollywood Bollywood and Nollywood movies could be seen as a sign that there is increasing interdependence among cultures. However, the imported culture can easily supplant the local culture, causing reduction in diversity through hybridisation or even assimilation. The most prominent form of this is Westernisation. The reaction of the Dependency theorists against the Modernisation theorists as early as the 1960s clearly tells the story of how people think about adopting other cultures. The Modernisation Theory was criticised for being synonymous with westernisation simply because it presented the ideas that could lead to the development of third world countries against a Western background. There was a massive challenge of the ethnocentrism of a political economy derived exclusively from the experience of Europe and the United States and then generalised to the rest of the world, with much reliance on certain value judgments about valued ends of development. (Brohman, 1995) The dependency theorists argued against what they felt was the crusading imperialism of the modernisation theorists arguing that they were not in line with the experience of the Third World countries. To them, the modernisation theory was too simplistic, taking it for granted that everyone will accept western values. While people could be said to be more receptive of other cultures today than was the case in the pre-colonial and colonial eras, the world is still far from experiencing a smooth interchange of cultural values and ethics. Poznan (2008, p.11) acknowledges that “…is it true that globalisation is leading to a homogenised global culture, one in which life in the Netherlands approaches being indistinguishable from life in Brazil” but then pops the mind-searching question “…more to the point – is it leading to a world in which every country looks like southern California?” Answering this question will clearly point to the fact that globalisation of cultures could lead to erosion of cultural authenticity.

  1. Globalisation: A Myth?

Does it then mean that the whole idea of globalisation is merely a chimera? I certainly do not think so and so does McCormick (2002) who thinks that globalisation is the panacea to the problems of Third world Countries “for without it, the developing world and the millions in it who live in extreme poverty will lose the best chance they have of improving their lot in life.”  Such a statement taken in isolation will seem the best possible thing to say in defence of globalisation. However if we hearken to Santayana’s popular quote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, it becomes expedient to look back a little at Africa’s past, for as John Paul II holds, “if you want to understand the situation in Africa, its past and its picture, we must start from the truth of the African person – the truth of every African in his or her concrete and historical setting.” (John Paul II, 1980, 200)

In so doing, one notices that the present structure of underdevelopment in Africa starts from the incorporation of the continent in to the capitalist system over a period of 400 years. This process began in the 16th century when the mercantile phase of capitalist expansion brought European explorers and traders to the coasts of Africa and was completed in the 19th century with the partition and colonisation of Africa. This latter phase took place under the imperialist expansion of industrial rather than mercantile capitalism, and at a time when the capitalist system was characterised by a number of competing industrial powers. The benchmark of this period was the destruction of the traditional pattern of economic relationships in Africa and their replacement with satellite economies whose primary function was the production of one of a few cash crops or raw materials for exportation to the colonial mother country.

Well, this can be said to have been before independence, so what then is the situation today? To answer this question, I will look at the area of trade and the influence of Multinational corporations.

3.1.        Trade:

BERR (2008 p.34) makes the pronouncement that “to maximise the benefits from globalisation it is vital to have a free and fair multilateral trading system to foster economic cooperation, international trade and investment.” While this is very true, it is also true that though today, for the first time, developing countries have made the most impressive breakthrough into global markets for goods and services other than just primary products, (Collier, 2007) most of the firms established during the colonial era, still continue to play a major role in the export-import trade of the now independent States which were their former colonial preserves. Most of these pay very low prices for the cash crops they export to Europe while they set very high prices for the finished products they import for sale in Africa. Also, the major share of their profits is sent back to their home countries rather than being invested in the African economies where the profits are made. This has the unfortunate effect that a structural imbalance is created in the African economies resulting from their over dependence on the export of one of few primary products and this makes their economies extremely vulnerable to external factors and seriously hinders their internal development.

In a nutshell, the deformed development that took place under colonialism has rendered the economies of present day African states highly dependent, on poor international trade relations. This and other external economic interests have made their balanced developments extremely difficult. The chronic trade deficits of many African countries in the recent past can be attributed to this structural imbalance, and the dependence on exports. This is made worse by the rising prices of imports and the declining prices of exports a situation compounded by the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and the IMF whose deregulation and privatisation policies implemented in over 90 countries have left the world with a bitter legacy of “…growing poverty in all regions of the developing world, except China.” (Coates, 2002) At this period of increasing imports of manufactured goods for developmental purposes, this decline in export prices relative to import prices is nothing but catastrophic.

According to Green and Seidman (1969), the unfavourable incorporation of the underdeveloped world into the world economy is like a ‘giant price scissors’ that have led to the growing deficits in the balance of trade faced by poor countries.  As a result of these balance of trade deficits, the African countries have been forced to finance imports as well as their development programs through borrowing from foreign sources. This has led to their increased dependence on foreign capital and ‘foreign aid’ from Western governments and donor agencies. These circumstances therefore make it practically impossible for these economies to pursue policies designed to achieve economic independence and hence, economic growth. And as Kiely warns, the study of international political economy ‘‘… should not assume away the existence of the highly unequal international political and economic order’ (2007: 24).To make a bad situation look worse, Collier (2007) presents the fact that a bottom billion of the third world has ‘missed the boat’ and are therefore marginalised in the world economy hence, though “the growth of global trade has been good for Asia…don’t count on it to help the bottom billion. Based on present trends, it seems more likely to lock yet more of the bottom-billion countries into a natural resource trap than to save them through export diversification.” (Collier, 2007 p.87)

3.2.        Multinational Corporations:

The typical expatriate firm operating in Africa today is more and more what has been called Multinational Corporation or “an organised ensemble of means of production subject to a small policy-making centre which controls establishments situated in several different national territories.” (Arrighi and Saul, 1968, p.225) Following from the gloomy and deplorable nature of trade relations between poor and rich nations it is not surprising that many poor countries see the solution to the problem as lying with these multinational corporations. Little wonder McCormick (2002) argues that “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.” What McCormick fails to realise is that this in itself is also a can of worms since the natural tendency for foreign investors in Africa has been only to invest in the high profit sectors of the economies, with the level of interest and profit remittance being extremely high in relation to capital invested to the value of production by foreign firms, and to the taxes paid. (Green & Seidman, 1969) Hence, the lucrative profits which are made from these sectors are immediately sent back to metropolitan banks, and/or home offices. This practice hampers domestic capital formation, and results in a net overflow of capital from the African economies to the developed capitalist economies in the form of repatriated profits and royalties. Green and Seidman (1969, p. 128) point out that “…it has been estimated that profits, interests, and personal remittances exported from Africa total as much as one quarter of the continent’s gross annual income.”

According to Arrighi & Saul (1968), the investment policies of these multinationals are biased against the development of capital goods industries in Africa and other underdeveloped countries, and are biased in favour of the use of Capital-intensive techniques, their extractive and export-oriented undertakings in these countries. Both of these biases hinder the balanced development of the African economies. While it can be argued that these persons where writing some four decades ago, the reason I am using their thoughts is because I feel that those forms of investments were and still are incompatible with both the attainment of sustainable economic development and any significant improvement in the standards of living of the African people. Moreover, the governments of the African States are no march for the multinational corporations; hence, their efforts to bargain with and regulate the operations of these giant corporations are largely ineffectual. This is because of the fact that multinationals are more powerful than many governments and tend to have their way around several issues. As Miller points out,  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, how then will Shell not buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?  Green and Seidman note that “the individual African States are usually small in terms of revenue and reserves than the firms whose policies, they seek to control.” And that the high level of dependence of these countries upon foreign investment and foreign aid “results in the determination of ‘national’ economic policy and even the limitation of domestic investment resources by foreign public and private interests.” (Green & Seidman, 1969, p.81)

While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. For “…despite being chronically short of capital, the bottom billion are integrating into the global economy through capital flight rather than capital inflows…so don’t count on global capital mobility to develop the bottom billion, capital-scarce as they are. It is more likely to reinforce the traps.” (Collier 2007, p.93)

When Collier talks of the traps, he means what he calls the Conflict Trap, the Natural Resource Trap, Landlocked with Bad Neighbours, and Bad Governance in a Small Country. What he fails to realise is the fact that his analysis of globalisation supports the fact that rather than being a solution, globalisation is becoming itself a trap. The skewed nature of the world economy structure is such that poor nations are finding it more and more difficult to access the benefits of globalisation because they are ridden with huge debts, rising unemployment, cannot compete favourably in a free trade world and of course the Collien Traps which are both causes and effects of the others and therefore appear together and reinforce each other. But if trade, financial liberalisation and all associated with them are failing to make globalisation benefits global, what about the movement of people across borders.

3.3.        Migration:

There is no doubt that one of the most visible effects of globalisation has been the massive shift in the global demand for labour. The creation of new work opportunities in many richer economies in recent years, due to the shifts in type of industries could account for this. At the same time, lack of development and the absence of employment opportunities in poorer economies have created a labour force more eager, and able, to migrate to take advantage of these opportunities. The result of this has been a significant expansion of global mobility. It is argued that the movement of people from Europe to North America in the Nineteenth century did more to raise and equalise incomes than trade and capital flows and that in recent years, the Indian Diaspora in the United States acted as an important catalyst to India’s breakthrough into the global market for e-services. (Collier, 2007) While it is a truism that the volume of people moving across countries seems to be increasing, so also is it true that the amount of restrictions placed on immigrants has doubled if not tripled in the last few years since 9/11.

In today’s scene, the poor are not welcomed into Europe and the United States in the same way that elites are hence the few who do manage to get in do so at great risks. Some have to sell all their family assets to be able to travel and even when they do, most are not sure of the next day as any false move will see them being repatriated on the next available flight. Many are exploited by ‘people-traffickers’ who take their life savings in exchange for facilitation of passage, Even the vessels used to cross the Mediterranean from Africa are unsafe, and there are reports of thousands who have drowned, Similar stories are told about poor Mexicans heading for the USA, or Burmese entering Thailand and of course the Zimbabweans I mentioned at the beginning. While globalisation has made it easier to move money and goods around the world, it is not true that all people are free to move. It is therefore much easier for people with money and skills to migrate than it is for the poor hence it will not be hasty if I conclude that there is no level playing field for global migrants.

  1. Globalisation: What Future?

There is no doubt from what I have been presenting thus far that greater global integration through trade, investment, financial liberalisation and even migration does not lead to convergence but intensifies the gap between powerful and powerless, rich and poor countries in the world order. What I have succeeded in convincing myself is the fact that globalisation is truly a PROCESS. It is therefore contingent and something in potency with the hope of actualisation. This can only happen if and only if we take cognisance of the fact that issues of development and inequality remain central to understanding globalisation and making it a reality. This should begin with the recognition of differentiation within ‘Third World’ (Schuurman, 2000)

If progress is to be made in the process of globalisation, I feel the first major challenge now lies with the international community firmly taking a resolution towards handling the problems of international security, poverty and regional inequality and most important global warming and climate change. BERR acknowledges that “Meeting the challenge of climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is clearly integral to how we manage internationally the ongoing process of globalisation” (Berr, 2008, p.viii) These and many more global issues need to be looked at with a growing sense of urgency and greater international solidarity. Meanwhile, the great question of the day still remains as to whether the process of globalisation will slow down or go into reverse in the future. In certain aspects it’s a ‘Yes’, and in certain aspects it’s ‘No’.

First the ‘Yes’ part: The question of globalisation should not be discussed as if it was a ‘one-size-fits-all’ thing. It is clear that in the areas of trade, the spread of multinational corporations and even migration, many poor nations are not benefiting from the advantages of globalisation. For example, Collier points out that “…the exodus of capital from the bottom billion was only phase one of the global integration of the bottom billion. Phase two will be an exodus of educated people. As Somalia continues to fail and other places continue to develop, more Somalis will leave, as there will be more places for them to go. But emigration will be selective…” (Collier, 2007, p.94) This is a pen portrait of what is actually happening now to most of the poor countries. The best and the brightest are the ones who can afford to get to other countries and study and because the situation is bad in their home countries and they have to pay a high price for their education, they tend to look for employment in the more advanced countries and in most cases apply for citizenship. As this process continues, other areas will suffer, there will be a lack of professionals in these countries and their economies and system of governance will continue to decline. A bad economy coupled with bad leadership is a fertile ground for conflict to develop. When this happens, the climate becomes unsuitable for investment and multinationals will either flee or not invest in these countries. The process of globalisation in this instance will definitely slow down.

Also most of the middle income countries and some of the high income countries have recently been adopting protective strategies. With the financial crises in Southeast Asia in 1997, that began in the relatively small debt-ridden economy of Thailand but quickly spread to Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, most of these countries began to adopt protective measures. Thailand’s adoption of the ‘sufficiency economy philosophy’ shortly after the crises was a clear indication of their desire to retreat from the global sphere and implement something that was home-grown. Also the onslaught of the most recent crises that began with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in the USA in 2007 and has sent ripples and shock waves to most economies around the world demonstrated the new risks and volatility in rapidly changing globalised markets.

Smalley argues that the call for the Regionalisation of Britain is entirely an EU project and condemns the White paper ‘Your Region Your Choice’ while calling for the independence of Britain. I think however that the call for the revitalisation of the English Regions is rather a reaction to globalisation. This is because “regionalisation can be a response to globalisation and at the same time stimulate the microeconomic forces that drive globalisation. Regionalisation and globalisation can thus be, and often are, mutually reinforcing” (Oman, 1994, p.16) The recent moves by the UK governments to strengthen the regions more in an era of increasing globalisation is not in the least surprising since “The global is an extension of the local,” and an examination and understanding of “global actors and events must focus on the local.” (Srnicek, 2010, p.38) In the light of this, I feel that as the negative effects of globalisation keep spreading as fast as its positive side, most countries and regions will tend to revert to strengthening themselves so as to be able to better compete on a global scale. The recent rise of regions like the EU, ECOWAS, NAFTA, and the fact that countries still try to protect their national interests above anything else (The UK not willing to accept the Euro, China still maintaining censorship of communication with the rest of the world), is simply a sign that effective nationalisation and regionalisation are actually the prelude to globalisation. Hirst & Thompson (1996, p.2) make the point that “one key effect of the concept of globalisation has been to paralyse radical reforming national strategies, to see them as unfeasible in the face of the judgement and sanction of international markets” hence, I believe that in the short run, there will be a massive slow down of the process of globalisation as the processes of nationalisation and regionalisation gain impetus and it may only be in the long run that the success of these can therefore act as a catalyst for globalisation.

And now the ‘No’ part: The aspect of globalisation that indubitably will continue to grow is the revolutionary changes in technology, particularly in transport and communications, which ostensibly creates a ‘global village’. In the 19th century, it took a nearly a year to sail around the World, today I can fly around the world in a day, send an email anywhere almost instantly even using mobile phones, be part of global networks like Twitter and Facebook, sending messages to all parts of the world within milliseconds. As a result of technological advances there has been a massive drop in transportation costs that make foreign markets more accessible to trade. Express mail services can deliver mails and parcels to any part of the globe within the same day and billions worth of assets and currencies are exchanged daily around the globe by electronic means at little or no cost. There is no gainsaying the fact that these trends are going to continue and increase in efficiency hence, in this regard, the process of globalisation is not going to slow down anytime in the near future.

  1. Conclusion:

I began this essay by pointing out that while some countries and regions in the world were converging some parts of the world were disintegrating. I therefore sought throughout this essay to inquire why this is happening in this era of growing talk about globalisation. The one theme that cut across all the arguments I put forward was the fact that there was no level playing field and so there was always going to be a problem with globalisation if these inherent injustices are not looked into ab initio. Unless this is done, countries and regions will always retreat to their shells at the slightest signs of danger – the recent financial meltdown being one of such – leading to increasing nationalism and regionalism rather that globalism. In the final analysis however, I argued that while the process of globalisation may slow down or even go into reverse in certain aspects, there are certain aspects where the process has already reached a stage that is irreversible.


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