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Essentially, globalization has meant different things to different people. Some view it as a beneficial process, with potential to boost productivity and living standards everywhere. Others believe that it increases inequality within and between countries, threatens employment and living standards, and thwarts social progress. The opportunities are no doubt many: global markets; exposure to new ideas, technology and products; economies of scale in production; gains in efficiency in the utilization of productive resources; greater specialization between nations; better quality products and wide option for consumers; increased competitiveness and increased output; and ability to tap cheaper sources of finance internationally. But most developing countries, especially the poorer countries, have very weak capacities to take advantage of a global market. The governments of African countries need to embrace globalization in the full awareness of these opportunities as well as the attendant risks. Developing, and operating within the framework of, strong regional and sub-regional economic groupings are one desirable response to the powerful forces of globalization. Such groupings should, however, be predicated on competitive production and investment. Regional integration will enable African countries to establish joint large-scale efficient and competitive enterprises and regional infrastructures. But then, to make regional integration an effective vehicle for beneficial integration within the world economy, African countries must overcome the perennial problem of lack of political will to integrate, and work towards greater institutional and economic policy convergence. It is only in this context that the new Initiatives – African Union and New Partnership for African development (NEPAD) – will make the desired impact.


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