All around me, I could hear the beats of musicians in the streets and the smells of unfamiliar foods lingering in the air. It was a breathtaking scene watching people rush by while vendors busily hawked their wares. After my first visit to the Makola Market in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, I became enthralled with the social patterns of the vendors and customers. As I visited the market again several times, I would investigate the ways in which markets like Makola were helping the growth of developing nations like Ghana. The subject that interested me most was how in Ghana, people went to the markets and bought from small vendors rather than shopping at the emerging Western-style malls. However, as time has passed, many vendors are going out of business due to the advent of major Western corporations expanding into other countries.
As the world becomes more interconnected and companies look abroad to increase revenues, the issue of globalization becomes apparent. While Ghana’s once vibrant economy was centered on local markets and sellers, now it is focused on major malls and global retailers like Game (now owned by Wal-Mart), KFC, and Silverbird Movies. Globalization has ushered in a new era of prosperity and interdependence, but it has resulted in the loss of local stores. This issue is not solely a problem in Ghana; it is faced around the world.
With the world moving towards greater integration, local businesses simply cannot compete with global companies that have the clout to enter new markets and merge with or acquire competing businesses. Furthermore, as citizens search for the cheapest products available, local mom-and-pop vendors cannot beat the major companies that can import cheap products often made under oppressive or cruel conditions in other developing nations. Some governments in developing countries have moved to protect local interests, but this approach could distort the trajectory of the free market and negatively impact globalization.
To alleviate some of the consequences of globalization, I believe small business owners in places like Makola have a few options that major corporations would be pressed to challenge. One option would be to sell specialized goods. For instance, it would be easier for local businesses to sell fresh chicken marinated in traditional spices than to compete with the major retailers that only import frozen chicken from abroad to sell. Since most Ghanaians visit stores based on word of mouth, local businesses should also focus on strengthening relationships with their customers in order to retain them. Another suggestion would be for businesses to leverage new technologies such as smartphones and tablets as a way to increase advertising and outreach. According to a World Bank report from 2012, mobile penetration has reached almost 85 percent in Ghana. Through texting short code campaigns, local businesses could easily communicate their promotions to customers in order to ensure their customers continue to shop with them.
The problem of globalization is not limited just to Ghana; it’s even affecting major rising powers. With modern society moving towards globalization, it is important to note the societal shift to outsourcing jobs and entering new markets in hopes of increasing profits. Even in other nations such as China, international vendors are now trying to push their products as the nation experiences record economic growth. As seen in recent news, Apple has increased its focus on China by adding new Chinese-specific features to its iOS software. These updates have ranged from improving its mapping application in China to launching a gold “champagne”-colored iPhone 5S in order to attract the average Chinese consumer. During a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook remarked that China was “Apple’s fasting growing region” and that the company aims to further develop its brand image in the nation. While these plans will ultimately allow Apple to generate more revenue and further please its stockholders, it is detrimental for local phone makers struggling to develop their own brand image in their native countries.
While globalization is affecting all nations and creating interconnectivity, it is disheartening to see the loss of local businesses to international corporations. From examining the impact of globalization in China and Ghana, one can see some of the challenges future society will face. Should we simply let massive conglomerates expand their reach throughout the world or is there a need to regulate their expansion? Only time will reveal the final long-term impacts of globalization.
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