The Vulnerability Of African Economy To Globalization

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The Vulnerability of African Economy to Globalization

The Vulnerability of African Economy to Globalization


Not too long ago, most scholars saw the African continent as divided into separate peoples or societies, each with its distinctive culture and social structure, and each rooted in its own particular territory. These societies were imagined to be essentially closed, internally homogenous, and radically different from Europe and North America. This perspective emerged at the time of European nationalism and was influenced by the German Romantic notion of the Volk. It was also fostered by the imposition of tribes as administrative units by colonial governments, and by the production of ethnographic monographs, based upon long-term participant observation within clearly bounded field sites.

Cooper (2001) mentions since the 1960s, however, archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, and other scholars of Africa have become increasingly critical of this isolating perspective. Rather than eliciting the distinguishing characteristics particular to various societies, they have documented the enormous impact of intra-and intercontinental connections among them. The former included processes such as warfare, trade, and state formation. The latter connections were forged by the Indian Ocean trade; trans-Saharan contacts with the Mediterranean; European maritime interests; the Atlantic slave trade; the spreads of Christianity and Islam; transfers of technology; the establishment of complex colonial orders; the emergence of African nationalism as a key political idea; desalinization; and the imposition of structural adjustment programs (Cooper, 2001).

Writings on the Bushmen (or San) clearly demonstrate these more contextualized perspectives. Earlier ethnographic texts constructed the Bushmen as egalitarian hunter-gatherers living in uncontaminated purity and primitive affluence in the Kalahari Desert. This vision has come to be seen as a mythical image, invoked by ethnographers to critique of the perils of modernity. More recent writings show Bushmen as central actors in the broader history of southern Africa. For millennia, Bushmen foragers have interacted and traded with pastoralists in the region. In times of Bantu expansion and European invasion, they formed political and economic alliances with the intruders to take advantage of the new circumstances. Bushmen traded ivory, hid in the mercantile world, and worked as shoot-boys for Great White Hunters (Ferguson, 1997).

But Bushmen also offered fierce resistance, and they were responsible for the destruction of the Republic of Upingtonia settler polity in 1886. They formed bandit gangs to oppose the imposition of a colonial state, and were literally hunted down by German police and military units. Under the South African occupation of Namibia after World War I, Bushmen were confined to native reserves and missionary stations, worked as farm laborers, and were recruited as trackers and soldiers by the South African Defence Force (Ferguson, 1997). The stereotypical image of the Bushmen is now of an under-class resident in squatter camps.

Features of Globalization

Since the 1980s, however, economists and political scientists have gone beyond this vision of African societies as shaped by more encompassing processes. They assert that a major rupture occurred in human history at the dawn of this century: the world entered a new era of globalization and has become a single network ...
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