The new imperialism & Africa in the global electronic village
Type of work: Article (academic)
Categories:Development | Economics | ICT4D
Globalisation is enabled by new information and communication technologies (ICTs) that have made it easy to move vast quantities of market information and intelligence, as well as capital, around the world. Conscious of the importance of ICTs in the globalisation process, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has developed a vision for structuring the ICT sector in developing countries. However, although embedded in international efforts to address the digital divide, itself occasioned by uneven access to ICTs at a range of geographic scales, WTO strategy for configuring the ICT sectors of developing countries appears to work in the interest of multinational corporations. Furthermore, WTO policy initiatives, especially those which come under the ambit of the Agreement on Telecommunications, GATs and TRIPs, have tended to exacerbate the digital divide. The result is the resurgence of imperialism, this time represented by knowledge dependence. While locating the marginality of Africa in cyberspace within its colonial past, this paper argues that current international attempts at bridging the digital divide are part of wider efforts to not only secure the virgin markets of developing countries, but also to configure the world in the interest of the new imperial powers. Within this context, therefore, Africa faces the challenge of imperialism anew. The paper discusses the substance of this challenge, and argues that while isolationism cannot be promoted as a counter-force to globalisation, Africa must re-establish the basis of its integration into a globalising world by developing a framework that challenges the dominant assumptions of processes of globalisation promoted by the WTO.