Globalization 4.0: Prospects and risks for Africa

Wef Forum File photo

Fri, 1 Feb 2019 Source: Emmanuel Amoah-Darkwah

The 2019 World Economic Forum was themed ‘Globalization 4.0’, an appropriate topic for discussion in this interconnected fourth industrial revolution era.

The end of World War II ushered in the United Nations, Bretton Woods Institutions- World Bank and International Monetary Fund, General Agreement on Tariff and Trade which became the World Trade Organization in 1994.

These institutions among others have contributed to a borderless world fueled in by an integrated financial market coupled with the free movement of goods, services and persons.

On the other hand, the fourth industrial revolution, a term coined by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes a world where individuals move between digital domains and offline reality with the use of connected technology to enable and manage their lives.

The big question on my mind is; has Africa fully transitioned from the agrarian first industrial revolution? If the answer is no, how can African countries position themselves to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution?

This calls for deep thinking of how to transform this continent that has huge potentials yet confronted with enormous risks. According to Bhagwati, ‘globalization is not necessarily good but has more good than bad, we recognize that Africa has always been the centre of the discourse’. If this assertion is true, how can African states make significant gains from globalization? More so, can globalization be solely blamed for the economic inequality in our world today?

Oxfam 2017 report posits that the richest 1% own more wealth than the rest of the planet of which the majority of the poor live in Africa. In a departing speech by former President of United States of America at the UN General Assembly in 2016, he said, ‘a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable’.

Africa can boast of some of the fastest growing economies in the world, yet more than half of the extremely poor live in Sub-Sahara Africa.

In a staggering World Bank report, the number of poor in the region increased by 9 million, with 413 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2015, more than all the other regions combined. If the trend continues, by 2030, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Sahara Africa.

A deeper interrogation of economic growth and development will reveal that; economic gains are skewed to benefit a few which Johan Galtung describes as ‘structural theory of imperialism’.

The fourth industrial revolution comes with opportunities which include: 1) lower barriers between inventors and markets, 2) more active role for the artificial intelligence (AI), 3) integration of different technics and domains (fusion), 4) improved quality of our lives (robotics) and 5) the connected life (Internet).

How is Africa positioning itself to take advantage of this new revolution and respond to its accompanying disruption to all spheres of mankind’s life? It is refreshing to note that, the global technology giant, Google will this year establish an Artificial Intelligence Center in Accra-Ghana, first on the African continent.

An investment in the youth who are largely unemployed which poses human and national security threat will enable the continent to harness the demographic dividend in this globalised world.

In conclusion, globalization is multidimensional and affects all spheres of social, economic, cultural, environmental relations between states.

The fourth industrial revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.

For Africa to reap the benefits of this revolution, the continent has to strategically review her engagement with the rest of the world whiles fostering regional integration agenda.

Columnist: Emmanuel Amoah-Darkwah