What is the future of globalization and its impact on world civilization? What issues remain to be resolved, and what are the likely implications for Gambia?
Discussions of “globalization” as a policy choice completely ignore the very natural transitions that occurred once the bipolar world structure of the Cold War gave way to the more individualized aspirations of nations and movements. Globalization was part of the evolution of international affairs that resulted from the absence of superpower intrigue and the development and proliferation of information technologies, combined with the removal of political barriers to trade in large sections of the industrialized world. While the removal of barriers to trade – and the radical opening of borders within the European Union – was certainly a deliberate movement that facilitated the advance of globalization, however, international trade has been given too much credit for a development that was occurring anyway. Additionally, the downsides to globalization are largely concentrated in regions that were not integral to the free trade movement that is credited with spurring globalization, and the exploitation of natural resources in less-developed, or “Third World” countries was occurring centuries before globalization took root.
Globalization is more a product of the proliferation of information technologies than it is of the increased flow of goods and services across borders, and its spread has been inevitable in light of the history of human migrations throughout history. And it is precisely these migrations that provide the greatest challenge stemming from the process of globalization. The massive movement of peoples across borders for the purpose of economic advancement has seriously transformed some of the most previously stable and prosperous countries and created levels of social turbulence beyond which they are ill-prepared to respond. Whether the country in question is the United States, France, the Netherlands, Germany or Great Britain, histories of prosperity have attracted enormous waves of migrants from less-developed regions, especially from former colonies.
Other unresolved, and more serious challenges involve the proliferation of diseases and environmental degradation, for example, air pollution, that remain impervious to resolution. Rapidly developing economies in the most populous countries, India and China, have created the difficult situation of needing to elevate the economic status of hundreds of millions of people while limiting the use of the very resources most associated with industrialization and its side-effect, global climate change. Convincing up-and-coming countries to forgo the same resource-intensive strategies employed by established industrial powers like the United States rings hollow to many citizens of those countries.
Specific to Gambia, the effects of globalization are limited by its geography and relatively limited appeal as a target for foreign investment. Completely surrounded by Senegal and perilously close geographically to much larger and dangerously unstable countries like Mali, Gambia is minor player in West African politics. Unlike tiny city-states and countries like Qatar and Singapore that “punch above their weight class,” Gambia has yet to emerge as an economic or political factor. Consequently, discussions of the ramifications of globalization with respect to that particular country are limited by Gambia’s minor status.