The 21st century has been accompanied with debate over whether the term ‘globalisation’, in reality, projects what it expresses.
This controversy has led to two opposing schools of thought namely; the ‘pro-globalization and the anti-globalization movements battling it out at global conferences such as the World Trade Organisation talks in Doha, Qatar and the recently concluded World Social Forum (WSF), which were held in Brazil.
The recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was spared from the wrath of these opponents, as the participants tried to find ways to counter the economic crisis. Nonetheless, developing countries are still struggling to integrate themselves into the global economy.
As we continue to subscribe to this integration, we foresee tremendous opportunities which we can harness but we are, surprisingly, deaf to what can hinder our integration.
Among the opportunities that we foresee, for example, is our ability to access jobs opportunities because of things like Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Availability of job opportunities in the manufacturing and service sectors will increase; an objective the governments in the region want to achieve (i.e. lower unemployment and greater job opportunities in both manufacturing and service sectors since these are the most competitive).
The negative effect can arise as these multi-national corporations take advantage of the “domestic poverty” of the nations by providing extremely low wage rates and poor working conditions.
The formation of labour unions cannot solve such problems as these multi-national corporations have huge influence in poor countries. The effort workers put in usually is not commensurate with low wage rate which may cause dissatisfaction leading to industrial unrest.
As we integrate, the availability of capital from international banks and finance institutions grows and so access to loans is much easier.
This undoubtedly is advantageous as we can develop our economy through infrastructure or even agricultural projects by sourcing these loans.
Privately, we can access loans to cater for our basic needs such as food, shelter and education. The negative aspect is very real since at this time, the developed countries are feeling the shockwaves of the economic crisis because their economies are integrated thus causing the risk of spreading the damage beyond continental borders.
With our economies still developing, if they were integrated in the global system we would feel the pinch more painfully than them as we cannot quickly source funds for rescue packages.
With regard to politics, positive opportunities arise from globalisation such as the formation of continental governing bodies, such as the African Union, which have influence over national governments, promoting peace and security.
For example, in January 2008 when Kenya experienced post-election violence, the African Union together with the East African Community and other continental bodies brokered a power sharing agreement which still is in effect today.
The resulting chaos adversely affected neighbouring countries which imported Kenyan goods and also used Kenya as a transit route to the sea port of Mombassa for exports and imports.
The fact that globalisation played a part in the formation of these continental bodies has brought tangible benefits.
However, the downside is the increase in level of bureaucracy. According to the World Bank report of 2007, Africa as a whole was ranked as the worst continent to do business in.
There is now a sense of urgency among countries in the East African Community to speed up cross- border trade by removing barriers to free trade.
Our integration into the global system must be catalysed by good communication between us and the rest of the world.
In our country, we are seeing countrywide initiatives by working class people to learn the English language and it has become mandatory for state schools and higher institutions of learning to use English as a medium of instruction.
Having proficiency in English language will open opportunities for doing business and accessing jobs in the English speaking world –the EAC, Commonwealth countries and North America.
Recent research has shown that 90% of all Internet traffic uses English while most business transactions worldwide are conducted using English language. In our country Rwanda, the language issue can spur controversy over whether young people should be more knowledgeable in their mother tongue, in this case Kinyarwanda, than English.
Having both skills is an obvious advantage but not everyone is able to possess both skills due the historical circumstances where many Rwandans were born outside the country.
The more we emphasize English into our system, the less we emphasize our mother-tongue; future generations may grow up lacking communication skills in their native language.
This can dramatically erode our national identity. Globalisation in this respect may not serve our need to shape our national identity through our language.
The topic of culture is usually a heated one at many debates on globalisation. The Rwandese culture is very solid and is embodied at all levels in society. It can be used constructively to bring about harmony and peaceful coexistence in our society.
Globalisation combines international cultures with our own culture to produce a mixture and this increases our understanding of global cultures, tastes and behaviours thus embracing better respect and admiration of different cultures.
As Erla Zwingle, author of the National Geographic magazine article titled ‘Globalisation’ states, “when cultures receive outside influences, they ignore some and adopt others, and then most immediately start to transform them.”
This transformation should be carefully embraced so as not to pick aspects of other cultures which are repugnant to our society.
In some countries, some youth don’t know their national dress and don’t even know the words of their national anthem but know the words sang in the anthem of Premiership football clubs in England.
In essence we find ourselves more interested and knowledgeable on global issues than domestic issues.
Globalisation is taking over as we sit and watch its effects both positive and negative. So, which side appeals to you most; are you pro- or anti-?