Globalisation, flu and the underdogs

GIDDENS (1990) declares that globalisation is the intensification of worldwide social relations in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away.

A flu of exponential contagion in faraway China has shaken our lives to its very roots collectively on a worldwide scale, at a pace that could not be imagined 100 years ago. Just like it took the Mayflower months to cross the Atlantic in 1924, it would have taken several years for a disease to become a worldwide pandemic.

Globalisation was not consciously planned – human restless nature occasioned the concept. Three broad issues have, however, shaped it: international market integration, multinational production and international finance.

Globalisation has been accelerated and sustained by improved trade, increased labour, capital mobility as well as improved technology. A conscious balance was achieved through the decentralisation of the components of globalisation. To ensure distribution among the interacting countries, the main tool that propels globalisation is international finance. It is held by financial hegemons termed famously as the world’s largest economies. Before 1880, Britain held the title before America took it, and has since reigned unchallenged, until the ascendance of China. Before China’s rise, financial hegemons deliberately dispersed to other participants to keep them glued by moving production to those nations among other economic activities. The new dynamics of China’s emergence is its dominance of multinational production, and international finance. While increasingly improving its abundant internal labour and championing technology, China quite literally holds all the aces of globalisation. Its squabbles with America are of an old challenger and a new hegemon, which played out differently in 1895 during the dispute between US and Britain over borders in South America. This has more of the elements of the Athenian and Spartan enduring classic.

The Chinese winner-takes-all approach has been sending shivers down the spines of other parts of the world where we see more nationalist movements and populist personas dominating the space of politics with promises of improved internal economies, through localisation of production and protectionism.  As the mantra, ‘bring back jobs from China,’ gains greater momentum in several countries, regionalisation is on the increase.

In this picture where is Africa? A visual metaphor of Africa’s place in globalisation is me dressed up this morning to see my Editor Chizoba in Maitama. My Versace scarf is made in Italy, my loop earring is from Saudi Arabia, my jeans from Bangladesh, T-shirt from Sri Lanka , shoes, bag, laptop, lipstick, powder, wristwatch and laptop are all made in China. I hopped into a car (taxi) produced in Korea. From my corner of the world in Kubwa, Abuja, I ordered the world and it was delivered to me. This is the scenario in most of urban Africa today.  Africa’s unfortunate position is constantly discussed — the misfortune of excessive and unreasonable dependence. It has never come to bear so heavily on our human, national and geographic consciousness that a paradigm is needed from our old ways.  As countries are forced to isolate, look inward, and swing into reverse protectionism.

Nigeria has slashed by $5 billion its annual budget and the federal government has approached the IMF for $7 billion emergency funding. At $133 Nigeria’s breakeven price is too high, largely because of corruption and lack of technological know-how. As oil price slumps below the benchmark, we are forced to produce billions of barrels at a loss. The fear is that aged, unimproved refineries may cave in if production is halted.

Although keen observers believe the world will adopt a V curve after this crisis (whereby activities that went down will rebound upwards) as it did after health crises like (SARS 2003) and Hong Kong flu of 1968. Nigeria particularly faces a crisis of dwindling savings, debt burden and shrinking market for our most attractive commodity of trade.

Tighter restrictions on requirements for phyto certificates may further increase the difficulty already faced by our few exports. What then is the seed of opportunity that lies in this epidemic?  How does the disease become an advantage?

As Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Nigeria must respond by immediately tackling dependence, especially on global value for particularly essential goods like health supplies, food and technology. The efforts of the present government to improve agriculture should be more and organised. There are currently 11 agencies under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Corruption, funding and lack of expertise have continued to plague them since establishment.

It is time to provide impactful education to Nigerians. The first step is to develop a curriculum and train teachers that can effectively and realistically deliver practicable knowledge, a sane learning environment, proper funding (for equipment and personnel) along the lines of our peculiar challenges. The only sure way to attract the best hands to our classrooms is through highly attractive packages.

Government remains the biggest investor in education. To get value, government at the highest levels must create and adopt a national education framework etched on uniformity and access. An education that is inclusive and effective should be rooted in the Nigerian culture of cohesion, development and progress. The foundation blocks of sound education must be laid at the formative ages of children through impactful pedagogy to tutor them numeracy and vocalization of education. In our present economic reality, the Nigerian government cannot afford to provide quality education to all her young population. Education therefore cannot be restricted to classrooms; there is an urgent need to develop more structured technological skill acquisition programmes that provide impactful, gainful and dignified employment.

 Our crude oil is stuck in the open seas. If we had what it takes for value addition, we would disaggregate the crude oil into petroleum products like gas, heating oils, asphalt, petrochemical feed stock, waxes, lubricating oils, and steel oils, for transportation. According to US Energy Information Administration, as at May 12, 2020, each barrel contains residual oil 0.9 hydrocarbon gas liquids – 1.5, other products – 6.0 jet fuel 4.4 distillate.

If the sad projection that novel heath challenges is about to become the new norm according to The National Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases is indeed true, we can safely assume that nations will protect themselves with their resources. No miracles and no Father Christmas will help us. Nigeria needs to look into her abundant natural reservoir of herbs and standardize the practices of traditional practitioners. To this end a national traditional health conference will not be a bad idea. NIPRD offices need to be opened in all states of the federation to work assiduously with traditional health practitioners.

Necessity is nature’s way of thrusting the human race into leaps of evolution. Mother Nature has spoken. What is your response Africa, Nigeria?  Finally, the ingenuity of investors and institutions that produced ventilators cannot be swept under the carpet. Woes would befall us if we bought such medical supplies again!

Onido writes from Kaduna

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