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Globalization And The Imperatives For Good Governance In African States – By Umar Ardo, Ph.D



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The year 2013 is an important year for the African Continent. It marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU); the 11th year of the launching of the African Union (AU) and a decade of coming into being of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). These are indeed very giant efforts embarked upon by African leaders aimed at attaining unity and security of the African Continent, and advance the material and physical development her states and peoples. Although appreciable progress had been made, however, in comparison to other parts of the world, Africa lacks far behind in development and progress. Many factors account for this failure, but in my opinion, central of them all has been that of poor leadership; i.e. lack of good, visionary and purposeful leadership.

Given the realization of this deficiency under the light of globalization, we must make deliberate efforts to start a historic march towards creating a new political order.  Globalization today has imposed on Africa the dire need for good governance as the prerequisite to her economic and political development. And within the context of our transitional and emerging economies this necessity becomes even more ardent; whether or not we live up to it, is nonetheless today a defining issue for African states.


One most important feature of our generation is the globalization of the world – the world, they say, has become a global village! As a point of entry, globalization officially registered in English lexicon in 1930. In today’s usage, its context basically facilitates the mechanisms for unrestricted global relationships with the attendant transfer of trade, cultures, politics, norms and values amongst world societies. With the advancement of Science and Technology and the breaking of barriers of time and space in human relations, activities of societies became opened, known and accessible to all across the globe. This glaringly brought to light the disparities that exist between peoples and Nation-states of the world in their economic, political, bureaucratic, cultural, social, scientific and technological developments and standards. On this score, the disparities are seen to have tilted heavily against African States in relation to the rest of the world, especially to the West. These disparities are so deep and so serious that their continuous existence constitutes a grave problem that threatens global peace. There is therefore an urgent need to solve the crisis by bridging the disparities.

This need has, however, also given rise to some conflicting view points with regard to the position and fate of African States vis-à-vis the emergent globalization process and how to approach it. On the one hand, there are those who see the process as representing the most secure way of bridging this gap and make the ambitions and dreams for a politically stable, economically prosperous and socially safe and sound Africa come true. But on the other hand, for others, the New World Order is replete with such perverse effects that no matter what is done it would continue to render the ‘developing’ countries of Africa more economically dependent, technologically stagnant, socially confused and politically irrelevant in the new global village.


However, in-between these two extreme positions lies the truth. Globalization, which I define more or less as the spread and dominance of Western Civilization across the globe, has as its main features the ascendancy of global free trade, laissez-faire capitalist economy, science and technology, condensation and availability of knowledge through the WWW, connectivity of people through multiple global systems, literacy and education, liberal democracy, constitutionalism, high standard of human organization, sound administration, effective leadership skills and human rights and the rule of law. These features, now the basic indices for measuring the material development of nations and societies, are on their own worthy development implements. They have today defined the new world order and African states can and should strive to attain them. What is needed is good leadership and right strategy to drive the process. Thus, globalization has created for Africa the imperatives for good governance and alternative public policy options.


The underdevelopment of Africa vis-à-vis the rest of the world spans a period of over 500 years. From 1479 when Europe came into ‘active’ contact with Africa, the slavery era of the 16th – 19th centuries, the ‘legitimate trade’ of the 19th century, the colonial domination of the 20th century, to the period of neo-imperialism of the late 20th century, the continent of Africa remained a subject of foreign exploitation. Since the end of colonialism (which was actually a central starting-point of the globalization process), African countries had desired, tried and failed to achieve the “progress” they observed in the developed countries. Not unexpectedly, after “failing” to achieve development by themselves, the African countries continued to depend on the 1st World countries for guidance. Their economic dependence level led to the recommendation of policies encapsulated as Austerity Measures and Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) by the IMF and World Bank. On the political level, they were also subjected to the United Nations’ resolutions on democracy, constitutionalism, human rights and the rule of law.


The IMF and World Bank thus prescribed economic policies to African countries, and our leaders accepted those policies wholesale and swung into action to implement them in the 1980s and well into the 1990s in the hope that it would build our economies and lead them unto prosperity. Thirty years after, when it became obvious that this developmental approach had failed, the IMF and World Bank then finally admitted that Austerity Measures and SAP were the wrong policies to have applied to the economies of African states as they were largely responsible for the resulting deprivation sweeping through the continent. In a report titled “The effect of IMF and World Bank Programmes on Poverty” the Breton Woods Projects revealed in 2000 that “poor nations are better off without structural adjustment”.

But the damage had already been done. World Bank and IMF Reports for 2005 – 2009 paint a very gory picture of the pathetic conditions of the Continent. African countries became so indebted that they practically lost their sovereignty. The issue of debt relieves then came out as a major concern in world politics and African states became beggar nations in the international community.  Domestically, there was a collapse in both human and physical infrastructures. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of the population depends on solid fuel for cooking and through its indoor air-pollution, kills more than 1.5 million people each year with more than half of them being below 5 years old. Globally, this is 4000 deaths a day, a figure that is more than the total deaths from malaria. Also, the number of poor grew from 200 million in 1981 to 380 million in 2005. By 2001, according to the World Bank, when poverty was reducing in other regions of the world, it was increasing in Africa and Nigeria had the highest rate and number of poor people. The level of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 was higher than in 1992. It was the highest across all regions of the world and Sub-Saharan Africa was the only region where this indicator had actually increased between 1992 and 2002. The future is even bleaker because, based on current trends, by 2015, 90% of those living in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) in the world will be in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Today, three quarters of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas, where there is no health care, no electricity, no potable water, no schools, and with millions of deaths and high risk of death due to poor sanitary conditions, epidemics and armed conflicts. In these rural areas, the children are the worst hit. A child dies every 3 seconds, one child dies nearly every minute from measles, six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday, 200,000 child-slaves are sold every year in Africa, about 120,000 African children carry arms in conflicts; some are as young as 7 years old. There are between 12 and 14 million African child- orphans due to HIV/AIDS, close to 2 million children below 14 years are themselves HIV positive, 43% of children do not have safe accessible drinking water; only 57% of African children are enrolled in primary education and less than 17% complete their schooling.

Twenty to thirty years after SAP and Austerity Measures, infrastructure stories are bleak too. By 2009, only 30% of African rural settlements have direct access to an all-season road, 35% must travel at least 2 kilometers to their primary source of water and Africans pay more than 200% extra for basic services compared to the rest of the world. The 2009 World Bank reported that poor infrastructure in Africa reduces national economic growth by 2% annually and reduces productivity by 40 percent. The entire installed power capacity of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a 2009 World Bank Report revealed, is a mere 68,000 gig watts, which is not up to that of Spain, one of the smallest countries in Europe. As it stands today one quarter of Africa’s installed power capacity is not operational. Africa needs $93 billion to close its infrastructural gap in energy, ICT, transportation and water. These are the facts of Africa’s underdevelopment.


The underdevelopment of Africa, driven from operating an unequal relationship in trade and commerce, is fraught with many implications. It led to the greatest peace time transfer of wealth from the nations in the periphery to the imperial countries in the center. In turn, the implication of this wealth transfer is the creation of wide gap between the richest and poorest countries of the world. In 1820, the rich imperial countries were 3 times richer than their poor colonial spheres of interest, by 1913 they were 11 times richer, by 1950 they were 35 times richer, by 1973 they were 44 times richer, by 1992, they were 72 times richer, and by 2001 they were 85 times richer. This represents 2,350% growth in wealth disparity between the rich and poor countries from 1820 to 2001 and nearly 50% of the growth in disparity occurred in the 28 years between 1973 and 2001. This means that the period of globalization alone accounts for more than 50% of the wealth gap between the rich and poor nations.

But after the colonial domination in the 1960s and prior to the economic crisis of the 1980s, there were positive attempts by post independence leaders to protect the economies of the states. But soon they were replaced by the policies from the IMF and World Bank. The main implication of this is that the IMF and World Bank policies and their wholesale adaptation and implementation are the central cause of this disparity more than anything else under the globalization process. Clearly, African leaders seemed to have dried the pond in order to catch the fish, as Mao Tsetung would say. This supports the contention that such policies were merely intended to help the economies of the imperial countries and more often add to the personal wealth of the African ruling class. But on the whole, the African states are the end-losers.


China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, etc. were by 1930 poor third world countries like African countries, but today they are major players and centers of commerce and technology in the globalized market place. They have successfully navigated their economic crisis and progressed on a path of sustainable growth and development. China and India account for most of the global reduction in poor people.  For example, the World Bank reported that in 1990 there were roughly 375 million people in China living in extreme poverty; on less than $1 per day. But by 2001, the figure reduced to 212 million people, and by 2015, if the current trend holds, there will be only 16 million out of the 1.2 billion Chinese living on less than $1 a day. In South Asian countries, the numbers go from 462 million in 1990 down to 431 million in 2001 and further down to 216 million in 2015. In achieving this feat, these countries took selective and favorable approach to the application of policies designed to open them up for globalized trade. Their leaders refused to totally accept the policies of the IMF and World Bank in the 80s. Instead, they skillfully seized the positives of the globalization process to focus in improving education and infrastructure and, in particular, adopting good governance.

In Sub-Saharan African States, by contrast, the poverty level is actually increasing with a corresponding fall in educational and infrastructural standards. World Bank Report shows that there were 227 people living on less than $1 a day in 1990, 313 million in 2001, and an expected rise to 385 million in 2015. The key reason accounting for these differences between the former countries and African States can be centered on the type of persons, leaderships, policies and strategies employed to govern these countries in the face of the changing world order.

In other words, by reason of bad governance and poor policy options, Africa failed to overcome the challenges of globalization to develop its societies. Hence, about half a century since independence, African countries are still stagnantly underdeveloped, with all the attendant traits – illiteracy and ignorance, poverty and deprivation, famine and starvation, epidemics and health crises, child labour, mortality and low life expectancy, corruption and dishonesty in leadership, decaying infrastructure and moral decadence, crime and violence, or simply outright failure of states.


These are challenges that are beyond the scope of the current prevailing strategic methods employed by most African leaders. In my view, it is the lack of clear understanding of the issues confronting us over the years by our policy makers (either by design or default), itself therefore leading to poor policy choices and implementations, that inevitably led to Africa’s developmental failures. Increasingly, therefore, the option is for Africa (and Nigeria) to pursue a more sophisticated line of inquiry for a more complete view across the fields of government policy, trade and commerce, science and technology, human and physical infrastructures, etc. With their rich aptitudes and talents of large populations and their abundant untapped natural resources, African States can also seize the positives of globalization, overcome its challenges and attain rapid material development for the people. Only the entrenchment of good governance with creative strategies and alternative policy options based on a deep understanding of our history, society, culture and the global environment can make us achieve this laudable goal for our people. This requires the creation of the right kind of leadership that would in turn create the conditions in which our people can realize their potentials by getting their talents expressed and their resources harnessed. Since leaders are products of history, culture, values and circumstances of their societies, concerted and conscious efforts on the part of the people can create the desired leadership for our countries. I believe this to be the key option for Africa to meet the challenges of development under the new global reality.

For the last 4 decades, Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa have been under the World Bank and IMF Economic Policies which have turned out to be total failures. The next 30 years are again already being defined by the Poverty Reduction Programmes (PRP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the UNO. The PRP and MDGs concepts and principles are just the same old policies from the same old multi-national bodies that earlier prescribed debt relief, aid, privatization and trade liberalization as the basis for faster development for Africa. These kinds of externally originated policies examine economic realities of Nigeria and other African States decoupled from politics and geo-strategic relations, thereby creating false economic pictures for our countries. Let us not lose sight of the fact that over the years, leadership in Nigeria failed to stand its ground on the side of its citizens but rather accepted ridiculous ideas to sell off national assets and open up the country for plundering. It had not worked then; and this too will not work now.

Let us also further take note of the fact that since independence each leadership cycle in Nigeria has been characterized by the shifting of developmental milestones; starting from the National Development Rolling Plans 1st, 2nd and 3rd, to the projection of the Year 2000 for the provision of housing, health, education, food, transportation and jobs for all; followed by the era of Vision 2010, NEEDS, then Vision 2020, Vision 20:2020 and now the Transformation Agenda. Nigeria has consistently failed to meet these developmental goals and objectives on account of failure of leadership. If this continues Nigeria will bequeath to the next generation only poverty, hunger, illiteracy, desertification, environmental degradation, erosion, coastal encroachment and depleted natural resources; an unprepared generation that will not be able to use today’s technologies and energy sources to provide for its own needs. The children of the succeeding generation will have to beg for new technologies to harness renewable energy sources. They will be prone to conflict and manipulation because survival will be the only thing on their minds.

Our politics must be hinged on economic development of the society and separated from the current individual, group and regional supremacy contest, because this is the old way. If we continue to do things the old way we will only get the same old results all the time. The youth, women and the educated must be mobilized for Good Governance. The youth, because the future belongs to them; the women because the family is the nucleus of every society; and the educated because they are the light of the society. The welfare of people is the gauge for the effectiveness of any government and it is time to make their welfare the subject of politics. It is time for a positive change to responsible leadership.


Clearly, the present generation needs to induce in the people the appropriate qualitative change in their thinking process so as to re-organize their productive forces for economic self-reliance and veritable political and social renaissance. Africans must be made to think anew, to decide how best to restructure their polities, economies and education, and to re-engineer social changes that would lead to economic prosperity and a truly democratic and free society for a better and greater tomorrow. This is basically what our generation owes our people and the next generation.

My suggestion for attaining this goal is to create Research Centres of Excellence to do in-depth public policy research into domestic and global issues as they affect Africa’s material development – centres with articulate, media-savvy, home-grown intellectuals and analysts working as independent think-tanks to advocate and provide for alternative public policy options and strategies; while at the same time developing African perspectives on global trends and creating policy research frameworks on issues that require deeper interpretations, analysis, understanding and dissemination. As policy roles of government agencies and political parties are progressively diminishing, it is imperative that think tanks move in to fill the void and proffer viable solutions, strategies and alternative public policy options to meet the globalization challenges and opportunities.

As globalization has made it ever more clear the essential role of personal forces in shaping destinies of societies, such centres will need to focus and to put greater attention on the critical issue of leaders; to provide new perspectives on good leadership, accountability and transparency in governance, honesty and selflessness in public service, economic, social and educational plans, budgetary priorities, milestones and implementations’ diagrams, etc. The centres will thus provide better understanding to academics and journalists, strategic ideas to opinion molders and public policy makers and enlightenment to the general public.

I strongly believe that this approach will help create for African States, and Nigeria in particular, a high level of organization, a sincere and purposeful leadership, an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry, and an honest and responsive political class working purely for the sole benefit of the people within popular-based democratic cultures relevant to our environment, compatible with our mores and benefiting from diligent application and absorption of the traditional knowledge and practices of our people.  Accomplishing this will no doubt help break our failure syndrome and bring about the much desired but seemingly elusive dream of moving the continent to an advantageous position within the new global order capable of restoring the  pride and dignity of Africa and Africans.


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