Globalization is a contested concept and phenomenon. At its most basic it refers to increased interconnection between places or the increased stretching of social relations over distance, as mediated through, for example, flows of goods, finance, people, ideas, and forms of social organization. However, the precise content, nature, and impacts, of this phenomenon are highly debated. Africa is often conceived of as a recipient of globalization, rather than a source region of the phenomenon. However, accounts which critique the “impact model” of globalization on the continent have recently become more influential as have those which emphasize its recursive nature. There are a variety of channels through which globalization is constituted and expressed. These include economic, political, and social.
Globalization is often thought to be a recent phenomenon. However it has been in existence for centuries. Wright 2004 examines the history of the phenomenon through a focus on a small locality in Gambia in West Africa. Assefa, et al. 2001 provides a comprehensive overview of the issue and its relationship to democracy and development. Carmody 2010 examines the phenomenon through a focus on particular themes, such as the “mobile phone revolution.” Cheru 2002 argues that globalization can be beneficial for Africa, if carefully managed by state elites. Ferguson 2006 unpacks globalization to argue that investment flows, for example, “hop” from place to place and hence interconnections with the outside world are selective and enclaved rather than homogenizing. Adésínà, et al. 2006 focus specifically on the New Partnership for African Development which was touted as a new way for the continent to engage with the process of globalization.
Adésínà, Jìmí, Yao Graham, and Adebayo Olukoshi, eds. Africa and Development: Challenges in the New Millennium: The NEPAD Debate. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA, 2006.
This book, with contributions by leading African scholars, examines the nature and likelihood of success of the New Partnership for African Development which was proposed and created by a number of African leaders, including former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and which is in the process as of 2018 of becoming the African Union Development Agency.
Assefa, Taye, Severine M. Rugumamu, and Abdel Ghaffer Ahmed, eds. Globalization, Democracy, and Development in Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa, 2001.
This edited book provides an excellent overview of the issues by mostly Africa-based scholars.
Bond, Patrick. Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation. London: Zed Books, 2006.
This book by one of the world’s foremost political economists of Africa provides a relatively short and accessible introduction to the way in which the continent has been historically, and is currently, exploited by outside powers and companies.
Carmody, Pádraig. Globalization in Africa: Recolonization or Renaissance? Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2010.
Globalization on the continent has been substantially reconfigured in recent decades, particularly through the diffusion of new technologies, such as mobile phones, the rise of the importance of emerging powers on the continent, debt relief, and other vectors. Carmody examines these phenomena and suggests there is a “new scalar alignment” of global, regional and sometimes national factors which are more favorable to economic growth, if not development.
Cheru, Fantu. African Renaissance: Roadmaps to the Challenge of Globalization. London: Zed Books, 2002.
Much of the literature on Africa in the 1980s and 1990s was characterized by “Afro-pessimism.” In this important book Cheru disputes this reading of the continent’s current history and examines both progress which has been made and further potentiality for globalization to contribute to development on the continent.
Ferguson, James. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.
James Ferguson is a renowned anthropologist who unpacks the nature of globalization on the continent and challenges conventional wisdom in this important book. In particular he disputes overly simplified accounts of the “marginalization” of the continent by showing how many Africans are active in transnational communities.
Grant, Richard. Africa: Geographies of Change. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
This outstanding, comprehensive and accessible book covers a variety of topics from the environment through to the “scramble” for African Resources and the mobile phone ‘revolution’ on the continent. Eschewing Afro-pessimistic accounts, this book presents a realistic picture of the problems and potentialities of African development under globalization.
Hart, Gillian. Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Through drawing on broader lessons from local case studies in South Africa, Hart argues against what she calls the “impact model” of globalization in favor of a rich ethnography of the phenomenon which examines the ways in which spatial interconnections are differently ordered, with different results despite ostensible similarity in initial conditions. Thus “globalization” is locally constructed, with greater fluidity and potential for different outcomes than is commonly imagined.
Wright, Donald. The World and a Very Small Place in Africa: A History of Globalization in Niumi, The Gambia. 2d ed. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004.
Globalization is often through to be an overwhelming and deterritorialized force. Wright contests this by grounding his study in a particular locality in the smallest country in mainland Africa, the Gambia. He shows how rather than being remote from global forces, this place has been deeply connected and produced through them, such as through the slave trade.
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