Globalization and the sovereignty of nation-states in Africa

Essay, 2019

17 Pages, Grade: 80


Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Conceptualizing Globalization

3.0 Forms or Types of Globalization

4.0 Pros and Cons of Globalization

5.0 Globalization and Sovereignty of the Nation-State

6.0 Conclusion


1.0 Introduction

The closer interaction between and among states is not a recent phenomenon. It particularly became popular when the victors of the WW2 came together in purpose of enhancing global peace and security, economic growth and reconstruction of the European economies that have fallen into the dark abyss of economic cacophony. It is against this background that the United Nations (UN) was erected to substitute the failed League of Nations. The Bretton Woods’ institutions, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which later metamorphosed into World Trade Organization (WTO) in subsequent years (1947) were created as a regime to regulate international trade. It must however be noted that many have ascribed such interactions between and among states to the event of globalization.

Globalization has become some kind of ‘buzz word’ used by people of all walks of life. Perhaps, it is one of, if not the most promiscuous concept in international relations. The academics, politicians, policymakers and analysts alike make reference to this globalization in whatever discussions and engagements (Stieglitz 2002). Although, the concept globalization defies a single most important definition, it is widely acknowledged that the advancement in technology: information, communication, transportation, (and the new ways of organizing production, distribution and management of goods and services) spiced by the triumph of capitalism and its ‘twin sister, political liberalism’, the world has become greatly interdependent and interconnected. Thus, things that used to divide us in the past are no more barriers.

Globalization is viewed by many as ‘ a fast moving train’ which took off far back in the past, continues presently and would enter into the future without ever returning - that is, the trend of globalization is irreversible. Those who would onboard it will enjoy all the gargantuan enterprising benefits it comes with: such as easy access to larger (global) markets, freedoms of consumers to choose among the best quality of goods and services, to mention but few. They argue again that those who are not yet on board be advised to join in order to enjoy those benefits or be left behind as just spectators watching the train pass denying them the numerous benefits it comes with. Others are, however, of a different view.

It has been argued that how one beholds globalization is dependent on which side of the coin they belong - either as winning parties or losing candidates [emphasis added] (see Ninson 2012). Thus, we are told that globalization does not only come with benefits as opined by its apologetics, but also produces losers. The (hyper)-globalists, better still the apostles of the globalization phenomenon hails it, while the anti-globalists - the losers for that matter, chastise it as part of, if not the main cause of the numerous unbearable hardships all mankind especially those found in less developed societies face. The concept and phenomenon globalization is very controversial and produces highly contested outcomes.

This paper seeks to examine the various perspectives associated with globalization, as well as the positive and negative implications for the sovereignty of nation-states. The mammoth nature of the concept and phenomenon of globalization warrants the impossibility of dealing with it in this limited space. This work, inter alia, will in essence serve as one of the relevant inputs and digest of few of the numerous issues associated with globalization.

2.0 Conceptualizing Globalization

Like all concepts in the social sciences, there exists no unanimity in the concept of globalization. Scholars, analysts and politicians alike define it to suite their purposes. In his article titled ‘ The Globalization of Nothing ’, George Ritzer argued that the attitude [of people] towards globalization depends, among other things, on whether one gains or losses from it (Khondker 2004). Robertson (1992) defines globalization as “the interpenetration of the universalization of the particularization and the particularization of universalism” (in Khondker 2004: 4). This implies that, to Robertson, by globalization, what was peculiar to a particular jurisdiction or farther from others is now both global and affect all societies globally either directly or indirectly. Friedman (2002) refers to globalization as “the integration of everything else. It is the integration of markets, finance, and technology in a way that shrinks the world from a size medium to a small” (in Rourke 2005: 4). On his part, Rourke refers to globalization as the “multiplicity of linkages and interconnections that transcend the nation states (and by implication the society) which makes the modern world system. It defines a process through which events, decisions and activities in one part of the world can come to have a significant consequence for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe” (ibid). For Wolf, (2001: 171) “a globalized economy is the one in which neither distance nor national borders impede economic transactions”. According to Stieglitz (2002: 9), globalization means “the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to flows of good, services, capital, knowledge, (to a lesser extent) people across borders”. Globalization, thus, simply refers to time-space compression - to the extent that there is, in the words of Pieterse (2002: 12), “intensive interaction across wider space and in shorter time that hitherto was uncommon: a shrinking world experience”.

A critical inference from the above and many other definitions of globalization in substance narrowly lay emphasis on the economic aspect i.e. the growing interdependence of various economies of the world through trade, organization of production and distribution of goods and services globally aided by the spread of capitalism and the advancement in technology - transportation, communication among others. The debate however, whether or not globalization is an issue of contemporary occurrence and a current unique defining feature of the international scene and also whether or not this phenomenon (globalization) is real or just “new chip on the block” rages on. This intellectual discourse has resulted in the birth of several schools of thought which includes but not limited to the hyper-globalists, anti-globalists and the transformationalists.

The hyper-globalists believe that globalization is a phenomenon pertaining only to the current international system. They argue that the phenomenon is a distinctive feature of or marks a new era of the world in which people everywhere have become subjects or members of a virtual community. They argue that globalization as a phenomenon is historically unprecedented distinguishing feature peculiar to the contemporary (21st century) international system and believe that the increasing wave of the current global capitalist market will eventually erode the state sovereignty and consequently the demise of it. Such scholars as Ash Amin, and Susan Strange are associated with this school of thought (Ninson, 2012; Karbo & Lee Ray, 2011).

The anti-globalists do not see any conspicuous change in the interaction between and among states and non-state actors. They are doubtful about this so called current distinctive feature of the international system. For them, the craze called globalization today is as old as human civilization itself and thus, has historical precedent. Ninson (2012: 9/10) indeed describes globalization as both a concept and a historical process. Some people argue that the root of globalization can be traced back to the ancient period through to the European industrial revolution, imperial and colonial time to its peak, the spread of the modern global capitalist liberal economy especially at the demise of the cold war and communism in the 1960s which informed Fukuyama’s end of history paradigm. For example, a paper presented at the University of Cambridge Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, United Kingdom, it was argued that “modern globalization may have some roots dating back to the ancient Roman Empire (Perkins, 2006; McNair, 2010: 56/57). The Romans built roads, imported and exported goods within their empire, and had a large cultural influence on the nations in which they conquered and traded [with]”. For them, the process exaggerated by the hyper-globalist as a gargantuan distinguishing feature of the contemporary world and called globalization has been there for very long and that it is nothing new but just a process in the continuum currently hyped by the spread of capitalism.

Another school of thought that has joined the debate is the moderating force that stands in-between the hyper- and the anti-globalists schools - the transformationalists. They behold globalization as both historically rooted and presently increasing its pace of spread. Their interest is not in seeking to evaluate globalization in its current trend in relation to the past to predict what the future of the ever blowing whirlwind of the phenomenon globalization holds for the various sovereign states and all the actors on the global arena. Their [the proponents of this school] major concern is to set the record straight by laying emphasis on the fact that, the current trend of the international system is not necessarily new and peculiar to the contemporary world but, a historical process. However, they also acknowledge that in its current form, with the aid of the advancement in technology - communication, transportation, among others, globalization has brought some form of exceedingly new wave of unprecedented interconnected, interdependent global economic, socio-cultural, political among other important movements internationally (Ninson, 2012: 55, Karbo and Lee Ray 2011).

3.0 Forms or Types of Globalization

Globalization aforementioned is a complex multifaceted concept. It presents itself in various forms and shapes. It is not just about the growing global market for trade and the associated promised benefits preached by the capitalists. Keohane and Nye (1989), identified four main dimensions of globalization: economic (long-distance flow of goods, services, capital and its organization), military (long-distance networks of interdependence in which force is employed, including wars and threats), environmental (long-distance transfer of materials in the atmosphere and oceans and of biological substances that affect human health), social and cultural (movements of ideas, meanings, information, images and people)(Ardic Nurullah 2009: 18). Apart from the economic aspect, globalization also takes the form of socio-cultural, environmental, political, and cultural among other forms with certain driving forces making globalization a possibility (see Asare 2011). Some of these driving forces behind the growing interconnectedness of peoples in the contemporary world include, among other things, the media network (social, electronic, print), communication, and transportation enhancement made possible by cutting-edge technologies. Thus, increasing access to (and sharing of) information across borders which breaks the space and or time and geographical barriers that in the past impeded quicker and easier movement of people and goods across borders.

The first and most talked about type of globalization worth considering is the economic (and financial) globalization operating under the neo-liberal capitalist principles championed by the western industrialized countries, and the international financial and trade regulatory bodies such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO. The idea of economic liberalization became popular in the 18th century with the British Industrial Revolution. Economic globalization (better still, economic and financial globalization) is simply about the relaxation or removal of all restrictive trade, industrial, investment and financial policies, as well as the avoidance of governments’ control of the markets to ensure free flow of goods, services and capital across the globe. The (2008) (cited in McNair Scholars Research Journal, 2010: 53/54) refers to globalization as, “worldwide economic integration of many formerly separate national economies into one global economy, mainly through free trade and free movement of capital as by multinational companies,….” It should not be surprising to see so many foreign companies and (multinational) corporations dominating the domestic economies of specially developing countries.

The transnational investments, organization, production and distribution of goods and services have been made possible because of the invention of cutting-edge technologies - computers, mobile phones, internet and the frequent presence of the multinational corporations. The capital transfer, purchase of goods and provision of services have become easier as a result of economic globalization. Countries all over the world especially less developed countries such as those in Africa enjoy several services and make use of heavy duty machines because of the operations of transnational corporate entities. Economic globalization is concerned with the opening up of the various economies for global competition, governments also abstaining from protectionism of their respective local economies, and allowing the invincible hands of the market to effectively and efficiently operate so as to ensure free flow of goods, service and investments, with little or no restriction. With financial globalization, people all over the world will be able to transact their businesses without having to take physical moneys on them for exchange, among others. It has made it possible for international fiscal and monetary policies as well as regulatory measures and easy current exchange policies as well as the electronic and online banking, making flow of liquid capital for investment and other transactions possible, easy and convenient. However, the problem here is that a shock in any domestic economy especially the advance ones will spread like a contagious disease to shake other economies. Ocampo (2010: 1) has expressed similar concern noting that “...economic area, high financial volatility and a broad regulatory deficit have resulted in a sequence of national and international financial crises, and most recently in a global financial crisis unprecedented since the Great Depression”.

Globalization also comes in political and military forms. There has been gargantuan proliferation of supranational organizations (intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and transnational civil society groups such as the UN, EU, ECOWAS, AU, World Vision International, Doctors without Borders, WHO irrespectively) to bring to bear policies, programmes and fora among others seeking to address issues of global concern by both states and non-states actors. The political globalization usually takes the form of the growing emergence of intergovernmental and other international organizations that are popping up to serve as a platform where issues of common interest to the globe are discussed and appropriate measures taken to deal with them. For instance, the UN General Assembly’s meetings where all states meet to outline action plans for both domestic and international challenges facing member countries. The UN MDGs and SDGs which target key humanitarian problems to be met particularly by developing countries are quintessential issue not uncommon to many people worldwide. Furthermore, outbreak of the deadly Ebola viral disease in the West African sub-region saw the regional block ECOWAS, the African Union, UN and its special agencies such as UNDP, WHO, and also the global civil society group, Doctors without Borders, stepping in to help the most affected countries to fight the canker (see Asare, 2011). Also the world has seen a growing currency in the collaboration of security service personnel from different countries putting together efforts to combat crimes that serve as threats to global security and the very existence of humanity. These phenomena are what political and military globalization stand for. The UN acting especially on its behalf by its traditional arm, the Security Council, ECOWAS-via ECOMOG, etc. as well as individual countries have and continue to come together on peace keeping and peacemaking missions in war torn zones especially in Africa and the Middle East with the aim of restoring peace, rebuilding and reconstructing failed state structures among other issues such as the fight against global terrorism.

Another important form of globalization is [social and or] cultural. People have spoken of the possible convergence of socio-cultural values. The world is experiencing some form of socio-cultural homogeneity regarding values such as inclination towards urban lifestyle, formal western education, dressing, etc. and the development of particularly English language as a global Lingua Franca . For instance most educated Ghanaians today have developed taste for Italian Pizza, and also dress like their western counterparts to work. Again several international civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations with global membership such as human rights groups, among others have joined hands with citizens of particularly less developed and autocratic regimes to call for political liberalism (democracy and good governance, women, children, and minorities in society’s human rights among others), and demand for accountability from the leaderships of countries all over the world. It is not surprising that people like Francis Fukuyama would (naively) foresee and predict the possibility of having a homogeneous global culture which will then put to the end all conflicts resulting from ideological, (and to a larger extent racial lines)[my emphasis]. However, Samuel Huntington disagreed and predicted possible clash of civilization where there would be clashes and conflicts globally based on cultural and religious lines which may result from the skewed unequal benefits of global capitalism, the imposition and dominance of some cultures over others. The 9/11 attack has been argued to be an expression of the Islamic nations and cultures discontentment over what appears to be the deliberate sidelining of other cultures and the rather preponderance of the Anglo-American and Judeo-Christian civilization at the global scene.

Migration (or as Asare, 2011 puts it: ‘reverse globalization’) and environmental globalization is another form often ignored by the globalization literature that deserve attention. Migration perhaps is as old as the human history itself. However, the recent trend of movements to and fro (m) both the core and periphery countries are tremendous. But, mostly people from less developed countries migrate (through both legal and illegal means) to the advanced countries to seek greener pastures. A situation Asare (2011) describes as reversed globalization in the sense that in the past, through imperialism and colonialism, the core countries came to loot and benefited from now developing countries’ resources - both human and material (natural) resources through slave trade, and forced labour in their commercial farms both at the Diaspora and at home [emphasis added]. On the part of environmental globalization, it is particularly about the coming together of global networks of environmental (ecological) civil society groups to challenge the ongoing degrading of the atmosphere and the general global environment due to the activities of multinational corporations especially those into natural mineral and oil extraction and the proliferation of atomic bombs, missiles, chemical weapons and weapon of mass destruction. Also, state actors and non-state actors alike offer platforms where action plan could be taken to arrest environmental problems such as the current global worming menace (Wolf, 2001; Asare, 2011).

The forms notwithstanding, globalization can be both beneficial and injurious to the state, governments, and individual human beings and the natural ecology. The participants of globalization do not experience equal outcomes and opportunities. It has been widely acknowledged especially by the anti-globalist, that the outcome of globalization is mostly, if not always, skewed in favour of the core countries with the peripheries reaping little or nothing at all. The section examines claims of both the winning partakers and losing candidates of globalization.

4.0 Pros and Cons of Globalization

Every change (be it revolutionary or evolutionary) affect people differently. A change will always bring winners and losers. Oftentimes the losers will do everything in their power to resist such a change, whiles the winners wholeheartedly welcome same. Even though globalization comes with some genuine opportunities, it also comes with greater costs and these gains and cost are not shared equally by all humanity. The (hyper-) globalists hail globalization and make it appear as though it is a panacea for all problems of humanity. As have been alluded to above, they advise the ‘bystanders’ (or passive observers) to join the winning bandwagon of globalization or be left behind, which [they argue], would mean a great loss to them. However, the anti-globalists paint different picture of globalization altogether. They are skeptical about the opportunities globalization brings and repudiate the argument that all humankind and societies or countries will enjoy same, such opportunities globalization presents (Aksoy, 2002; Stiglitz, 2008).


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Globalization and the sovereignty of nation-states in Africa
University of Ghana, Legon  (Department of Political Science)
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globalization, africa
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Gilbert Aidoo, Arhinful (Author), 2019, Globalization and the sovereignty of nation-states in Africa, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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