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  • Writer's pictureSarah van Rijswijk

The downside of globalization: the Republic of the Congo & South-Sudan

The origins of globalization as a global phenomenon is still a debate to this day. One thing is certain, namely that globalization isn’t all positive and good for all countries. Look at countries such as the Republic of the Congo and South-Sudan, where the economy of both countries and their position in the world market were hit in a negative way through globalization. These countries already didn’t have the best economy in the first place. It’s important to realize that globalization has a downside, because this helps us understand why some countries are more content with globalization than others. It also shows how the economic positions in the world order are formed with regard to globalization. It is also very important to state the positive side, because this makes the contradiction within globalization more clear. Economic growth is maybe one of the biggest advantages of globalization and more cultural awareness is also an advantage. When naming those advantages and disadvantages it is important to know that the situation differs per country so maybe an advantage for one country means a disadvantage for another.

There has been a tension between the people of the Republic of Congo and Europeans since they first came in contact. This resulted in the Congo experiencing huge levels of exploitation driven by internal power relations, but even more by world market demands. Historically, global market demands between the 16th and 18th century heightened tensions through African slave trade, also known as a globalized business. Globalization made this worse, because African slave trade was transformed into a large, globalized business from the 16th to the 18th century. This initial form of globalization brought considerable wealth to global actors and African elites, when at the same time the majority of the Congolese people were victims of different kinds of suppression that came with the use of violence. King Leopold II of Belgium took part in this exploitation and violence after he became the leader of the Republic of Congo in 1884, damaging the country simultaneously. What the Congo needs after those disastrous centuries is integration in the world market without exploitation and violence, because this would rebuild not only Congo’s domestic economy, but their whole country.

That the Congolese people suffered from globalization due to exploitation has now become clear, but the suffering didn’t end after the period of African slave trade. As seen in the case of the Congo, a huge disadvantage of globalization is that rich countries become richer and poor countries become poorer. The Republic of the Congo is not one of the countries with the strongest economy and they never have been. Especially with King Leopold II, ‘betraying’ his own people, it is not easy to rebuild the economy of the country. The reason why this is bad for the Congo in particular, is that a disastrous history like the history of the Congo put the Congo behind from the start, which makes it more difficult to catch up with other countries again.

Even so many years later, the economy of the Congo is still a mess, due to weak national government in the country, underinvestment and huge poverty. You would say that the integration of Congo’s economy in the world market can be increased by taking care of the problems just mentioned, because a stronger national economy and strong national institutions would lead to a better position in the global order. However, globalization leads to less power in the hands of the national government and with the weak national institutions and therefore weak domestic policy of Congo it becomes difficult to rebuild those institutions and the domestic economy. Globalization prohibits them from transforming their domestic institutions and therefore globalization leads to less domestic control which is what causes resistance in the Congo's government to enter this global market. This will lead to countries like the Congo being passed by from expanding trade and from private capital flows for development.

The second country that is economically disadvantaged by globalization is South-Sudan. It is not a coincidence that both countries that are taken as an example are in Africa. Africa is the continent with most Third World countries, namely 33 countries according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. This is 70.2% of all the Third World countries, so it can be stated that Africa, in general, is economically disadvantaged the most by globalization due to the position of a lot of African countries in the world market and their weak domestic economy.

South-Sudan, according to Index Mundi, is listed at number 212 out of 223 on the list of amounts of purchasing power per capita. This shows that the domestic economy of South-Sudan isn't a so-called strong economy. Furthermore, globalization leads to the exploitation of cheap labor markets, something which characterizes the South-Sudan market. It is a country with high rates of child labor and very low levels of human capital in the workforce, which leads to exploitation. Child labor leads to lower wages and higher unemployment among adults. Children who work and therefore do not go to school are most likely to end up in low-paid jobs and when people don’t go to school they also don’t create a high level of human capital. This results in a vicious circle of poverty that keeps continuing. The already weak national economy is also due to political conflicts, displacement and external shocks. Thus, when the economic and political aspects of the country aren’t strong, the influence of globalization on this country will be affected. For the average citizen this means for example more abuse of economic power, but also more abuse of political power.

In short, it can be stated that both the Republic of Congo and South-Sudan are negatively affected by globalization. This is caused by weak national institutions, a weak domestic economy, cheap labor markets and economic historical backgrounds with, for example, a lot of violence and exploitation. Historically, King Leopold II exploited and violated his people and the period of the 16th until the 18th century can be seen as a globalized business, setting the direction of the position in the world order for the Congo. For South-Sudan exploitation of the cheap labor market was a big problem for their global position. For countries with a weak domestic economy, but also weak policy and weak national institutions, globalization is very inconvenient. It is not easy to change this, because the deeper causes cannot be fixed immediately as it is rooted in a long history. The countries that are used as examples are not the only countries disadvantaged by globalization, because the negative effects of globalization can be seen in a lot of African countries, but also in for example some Asian and South-American countries. In the end, a lot still needs to be done if the Congo and South-Sudan want to be more integrated in the global market.

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