By ANTHONY EBITIMI OWEI
With the advent of mobile phones, the internet and other swift means of communication, interactions among the over 7 billion people on earth have increased.
Before I visited Kenya for instance, I knew about her rich wildlife and some of her notable leaders via the Internet. I can confidently contribute to discourse about several countries of the world even without stepping my foot on their soil. That is how connected we are in today’s world.
Globalization to Birdsall (1999) “is the trend of increasing integration of economies in terms not only of goods and services, but of ideas, information and technology which has tremendous potential benefits for developing countries.” We cannot deny the fact that the world is now a global village but yet again, for developing nations of the world, focusing on Africa this time, it has done us more harm than good courtesy of leaders who lack vision and constantly display their greed for power and wealth. For almost two decades if not more, we have been singing about REFORMS! Be it political, financial, civil service, electoral and otherwise.
In repositioning our economy for growth and competition with other world economies, we have to liberalize trade, our financial system and privatize public corporations. Trade liberalization makes economies more competitive; generate new labour-intensive jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, provides cheaper imports, reducing the consumption costs for the urban poor who unlike the rich use most of their income for consumption.
Unfortunately, this widens the wage gap between the educated and uneducated, especially in developing countries, studies have proven.
Privatizing government institutions that has created an inefficient monopoly and ran basic services like power, water and telecommunications for many years was imperative. Prior to privatization, publicly managed institutions were always in debt and their services were ineffective because they were used as conduit for large scale corruption and treasury looting. The rich had access to water to fill their swimming pools while the poor paid more to purchase from private tankers or boreholes. The rich had the wherewithal to purchase heavy duty generators to power their homes and offices while the poor languish in darkness.
African nations are handicapped by weak institutions, lack of transparency, and high concentration of economic and political power which ruined the privatization process.
In the financial sector, those who already have assets, control this sector thereby starving the informal sector comprising of small-scale businesses the requisite funds for growth. In the private sector, top CEOs and board members are facing charges of theft running into billions. They have become money laundering agents for corrupt government officials. This tends to increase the concentration of wealth again among the “powers that be“. In Kenya, they call them “cartels” and in Nigeria “cabals”. Evidently, there is a leadership crisis in both public and private sectors.
With the economic recession and current EURO crisis, developing nations feel the heat the most. African nations export similar products (mostly raw materials) and scramble for the same export market, which has greatly depleted our foreign exchange earnings. An average citizen of Greece will remain in Athens than take a vacation to see the beautiful safaris of Kenya. In order words, their disposable income has drastically reduced as well. African nations are forced to introduce austerity measures, which they literally CANNOT implement. Nigerians will recall the fuel subsidy debate that grounded the economy in the early part of 2012. Government failed on his part to put in place palliatives to cushion the effect of the ‘so-called’ subsidy removal. (Another debate all together)
This evil of globalization boils down to lack of political will on the part of our leaders. Instead of seeking foreign investment, our leaders go about seeking foreign banks to invest their loot. Some argue that the citizens are as corrupt just like their leaders. But think of this, if the head is rotten, what will become of the body? If our leaders sit up, follow the rule of law, stop inflating contracts, offer selfless service, and so on, the citizens have no choice than to follow suit because then the rule of law will always prevail.
Our focus must be to strengthen institutions to fight corruption, distribute wealth equitably, INVEST HEAVILY IN HUMAN CAPITAL, infrastructure, healthcare and massive employment generation through industrialization. We should take advantage of our population to build a skilled workforce that will drive a prosperous economy. I am emphasizing on this because we have failed woefully in terms of investing in people.
People drive development and not natural resource(s). African nations should put in place frameworks to trade among her over ONE BILLION people and stop the habit of begging for foreign aid or grants which results in them becoming enemies and competitors just because they are scrambling for the same export market mostly in Europe and America. We should learn to make sacrifices and not live beyond our means. Success is not a destination and is not measured by material wealth. We take pride in consuming foreign goods and forget that we are exporting employment and killing our local economies.
In football, after 90 minutes regulation time comes the “injury time”. We can make a difference in this “injury time” of our existence.