All Things Work Together: The Effects of Globalization, Human Trafficking and the Modern Day Exploitation of the Togolese People
The state of North Carolina currently accounts for approximately 10% of America’s pork exports, shipping approximately 4.41 billion pounds across the world, including nations like Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and North Korea. With such a large demand, it’s no wonder many pig and hog farmers have had such a hard time keeping up with the world demand on bacon and other pork products. While this issue has certainly created a prime market for raising the prices of bacon to match its high demand and low quantity, one can’t help but think, “What other negative consequences can we expect from such a high demand?” While in depth research would certainly be helpful, a few clicks of the mouse and keywords “hurricane Florence pig farms”, proves to be quite fruitful. Most pig farms in North Carolina, and around the United States, are located in rural and poor regions that are predominately Black. To help solve the issue of waste, many have resorted to “manure lagoons”, which contain approximately “10 billion pounds of wet animal waste.” While this may seem quite disgusting to readers, an even more troubling finding lies beneath the surface. Due largely to high winds and flood waters that inevitably spread fecal matter and other contaminated waste throughout the pig farming regions, many health officials and citizens were concerned and rightfully so. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd did some much damage to pig farms and their lagoons, that contaminated waste seeped into “estuaries and was later blamed for toxic algae blooms” that killed many fish. But contaminated ground water and toxic algae blooms aren’t the only concern since the areas in which many North Carolina pig farms are inhabited largely disproportionate Black and Hispanic residents who are also among the poorest in the state. Lil Kuo of Quartz, an online publication said “Research on health impacts of hog farms is lacking, but studies point to effects ranging from impaired memory function to higher infant mortality (paywall) rates, higher asthma rates in children to wheezing and higher blood pressure among the neighboring population.”[i]
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While this story does not necessarily involve continental Africa, this issue like many other issues surrounding globalization and development, shows how some members of the global Black diaspora are affected alongside our continental brethren. It’s a perfect example of the ways in which high consumption and consumerism are directly responsible for deplorable living conditions and the health concerns associated with them often associated with the term “underdevelopment”. Like this region of the United States, many African communities have been adversely affected by the world’s current era of globalization and mass consumption. For example, nearly 100 years of negligent oil production has taken its toll on the African nation of Angola’s environment. Effects of oil production (offshore and land drilling) include “oil spills at sea and air pollution, in addition to other problems such as soil erosion and deforestation, especially rainforests.” As a result, many fishermen in coastal communities have seen a drop in their daily catch, with members of more land locked communities seeing the “deterioration of environmental conditions”.[ii] In Sierra Leone, the effects of diamond mining and the associated conflict, have wreaked havoc on Sierra Leone’s ecosystem. Due to the severity of mining in the nation, entire ecosystems have collapsed, like that of the Kono district in eastern Sierra Leone where wildlife has all but disappeared, erosion of topsoil has occurred, and barren lands once fit for farming.[iii] But these examples, do not talk about the exploitation of nation’s greatest natural resource, humans.
While globalization has had an adverse effect on the environment or ecology of several African nations, including the two examples listed above, the effects go beyond the environment, with many nations greatest resource being depleted and exploited, humans. According to the US State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report 2017: Focus on Africa”, most African countries were listed as a “Tier 2” countries. “Tier 2” countries, are defined as “countries whose governments do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.” Minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking are as follows:
(1) The government of the country should prohibit severe forms of trafficking in persons and punish acts of such trafficking.
(2) For the knowing commission of any act of sex trafficking involving force, fraud, coercion, or in which the victim of sex trafficking is a child incapable of giving meaningful consent, or of trafficking which includes rape or kidnapping or which causes a death, the government of the country should prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes, such as forcible sexual assault.
(3) For the knowing commission of any act of a severe form of trafficking in persons, the government of the country should prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense.
(4) The government of the country should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.[iv]
In the study, researchers found that no African country, including Namibia, Lesotho and Egypt were not doing enough to address and eliminate problems of human trafficking.
Among those countries listed as “Tier 2” is the small coastal nation of Togo. While there are no exact or accurate numbers, according to UNICEF, since nearly 70% of the population lives below the poverty with almost half its population being comprised of children under the age of 18, women and children are more likely to face sexual exploitation or human trafficking. Through research, we will discuss two things:
(1) The link between underdevelopment vs. development in Togo
(2) And the socioeconomic and cultural affects globalization and mass consumption have had on African nation of Togo, specifically focusing on child labor and human trafficking (sex and slave labor).
Significance of Research
Through research, the following questions will be answered:
(1) Why Togo is considered an underdeveloped or a developing country in comparison to its western counterparts?
(2) What have been the effects of globalization and mass consumption and the ways in which they have socioeconomically impacted the nation of Togo?
(3) How can the effects of globalization and mass consumption be linked to the underdevelopment of Togo?
In our sheltered lives, many are shielded from the negative ways capitalism has affected our communities. Corporations such as Disney, do such a good job at masking the costs of capitalism, that many of us are blinded by the perpetual poverty many communities live in because of it. This study is important because it will not only shed light on the negative side globalization and high consumption, or capitalism, but also give the reader insight on how and why Togo is considered an underdeveloped or developing country. Simply put, what costs does our luxury come with beyond the retail price tag?
Review of Literature
While this research is compiled from several sources, both primary and secondary, most information strictly dealt with the fact that Togo was “developing” in terms of comparison to other nations using information such as GDP, GNP, and HDI (discussed in further details below). Currently, there are several ways to measure development, with the two most prominent and long standing being the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP). GDP refers to “the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a nation’s geographic borders over a specified period of time.”[v]
The GNP refers to “the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a nation over a specified period of time” whether those resources are produced within the country’s borders or abroad.[vi] While both tools are very good at measuring the economic growth of a country, they do not account for social development such as the ways in which citizens of a country have mastered nature in an effort to provide better live and comfort for themselves. To solve this issue, several indexes were created that measured not only the economic aspect of development but also, the social development of a country. For example, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), currently ranks Togo as 165 out of 189 countries and territories on the Human Development Index (HDI). In keeping with Dr. Walter Rodney’s definition of human development, the HDI not only takes into account the economic growth of a country as means of measuring a country’s development, but it also includes people and their capabilities (social development). It does this by focusing on three dimensions of progress which include “a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living”:
The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. The HDI uses the logarithm of income, to reflect the diminishing importance of income with increasing GNI. The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index using geometric mean.[vii]
Figure 1.1 simplifies and gives a visual definition of the information listed above, while figure 1.2 shows the country of Togo’s current rating on the HDI and figure 1.3 show trends in Togo’s HDI component indices (life expectancy ,education, and GNI per capita) between 1990 and 2017.
While the above information certainly paints a fairly accurate picture of economic and social conditions of the country, like much of the literature reviewed, the above does not give us the “why?” More specifically, why the country of Togo is so underdeveloped in comparison to countries like the United States and France. To aid in not only defining development vs underdevelopment, but also identify why countries like Togo are considered developing, the primary source of theory for this research comes from the book titled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” by Dr. Walter Rodney. Through historical analysis, Dr. Rodney offered a then new perspective on the historical role Europe played in the underdevelopment in Africa. He does so by doing the following:
- Defining Development and Underdevelopment
- Detailing and rewriting development in Africa and Europe prior to the arrival and eventual colonization by Europeans – For many years, Africa was seen as having no history prior to colonization.
- Detailing the dependent nature of Europe and how this eventually lead to the underdevelopment of Africa and development in Europe – Europe development was dependent of Africa’s underdevelopment.
For Dr. Rodney, it was extremely important to note that development, as we knew it, was a “comparative term”. For example, the only way we know nations like Togo are underdeveloped is because we used countries like the United States to define what development looks like. In considering this, Rodney noted that every nation in the world has experienced some sort of development, even if the development has stagnated, slowed, or reversed in some cases. In defining development, Rodney mentioned both individual development and its tie to the overall development of a nation, stating that development at the national level simply meant the ability to improve lives through harnessing the earth’s resources.
In the book titled “The Bottom Billion”, author Paul Collier explains why “the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it.” This book addresses the various problem associated with the 1 billion poorest people in the world and their respective countries. The author does this in 4 parts that represent “traps” which include “the trap conflict”, “natural resources”, “landlocked by bad neighbors” and “bad governance”. In the “trap conflict”, Collier believes that most of the bottom billion are threatened by violence, from within and without, which inevitably causes problems with economic growth. In the second trap, “natural resources”, Collier talks about the fact that while many developing countries are rich in natural resources or raw materials, this possession does little to diversify local economies, especially since local currencies become more valuable with the increase of exports, leaving locals with little to no incentives. Next, Collier talks about the plight of countries who are landlocked by bad neighbors, leaving them with little to no choice but to agree to various trade deals which eventually hamper their growth. Finally, Collier discusses how they suffer from bad governance and poor policy choices. While reformists may rise from the ashes, these leaders have little time to implement policies, which eventually lose sustainability as leadership changes. Through history and research, Collier discusses the plight of the bottom billion, 70 percent of which is in Africa, and suggests policy initiatives. In certain parts of the book, it seems as though the author oversimplifies concepts, such as in the section discussing bad governance. It hard to believe that countries and their economic growth suffer merely because of bad governance. While this is certainly a contributing factor to the problem, it does not take into consideration unfair trade deals, global trends or even economies that are in transition. Aside from these issues, the book is fairly sound and simple to read and comprehend, leaving readers with more knowledge regarding the plight of third world countries.[viii]
While many like to characterize globalization as a relatively recent phenomenon, many theorists, including Immanuel Wallerstein, primary originator of the world-system theory believe this to be false. In this theory, like capitalism, globalization spread and has come to encompass the entire world over the span of 500 short years. In the book titled “The Blackwell Companion to Globalization”, the author of chapter six, titled “Theories of Globalization”, William I. Robinson, provides a sampler of sorts through his discussion of the various theories of globalization, including the world-system theory, theories of global capitalism, the network society, theories of global culture, etc. In this chapter, we also encounter the critique that some do not believe the world-system approach is actually a theory of globalization, but instead simply offers insight on world society. Robinson argues that if the simplified definition of globalization is the connection and dependencies countries around the globe experience along with the 500 year emergence and spread of globalization, then the world-system theory must be included. The author also argues that the world-system theory is not a self-identified theory of globalization and fails to recognize the global social changes of the 20th and 21st century, which is later addressed Wallerstein’s essay titled “Globalization or the Age of Transition?”[ix]
The Role of Theory and Definition of Terms
When discussing the term globalization, there are several theories of schools of thought, but the most important to this research is the “world-system theory”. In the world-system theory, the division of labor divides the world into semi-periphery, periphery and core regions. In the world-system theory, core countries represent Western Europe, North America and Japan. These countries are typically considered most powerful and developed in the world and depend on semi-periphery, periphery countries. Periphery regions refer to those countries who were “forced” under colonialism to extract the raw materials needed for the capital intensive production of core countries. These regions are considered the least developed, with relatively weak governments, high percentages of poverty, and limited economic activity. For this research, while we will be discussing the role of all three, the most important, are the periphery regions, since most core and semi-periphery regions depend on periphery countries for the production and/or extraction of raw materials. Through the analysis of more research, we will be able to see the connection between these various regions and how they exploit periphery regions. Finally, semi-periphery countries are in the middle. While they are more stable and developed than periphery countries, they have not yet reached the skill and production levels of core countries. Another important facet of the world-system theory is that its supporters view globalization as not only an ongoing process, instead of a state of being, but also synonymous with the spread of capitalism in the 1500s. In this theory, like capitalism, globalization spread and has come to encompass the entire world over the span of 500 short years.[x]
Through this research, we will also discuss other relevant theories, but for now, the most important is the world-system theory. To assist with analyzing the research, the following concepts and their respective definitions are also important:
- Globalization – While there are many definitions of the term “globalization”, but the term is most generally defined as, “One of numerous definitions of globalization describes it as a dynamic process whereby the social structures of modernity, such as capitalism, bureaucracy, high technology, and philosophy of rationalism and liberalism are spread the world over.”[xi]
- Mass Consumption – The theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial.[xii]
- Cultural – Of or relating to a particular group of people and their habits, beliefs, traditions, etc.[xiii]
- Socioeconomic – Of, relating to, or involving a combination of social and economic factors.[xiv]
With the help of preliminary research, it is hypothesized that globalization and mass consumption have negatively impacted various African nations, exploiting them for many of their natural resources. While these effects are sure to have a negative impact on the environment, the consequences are far reaching, and affect not only the environment, but also the socioeconomic status and cultural norms, replacing tradition, with a more modernized way of life that has not always been beneficial to Africa as a whole.
This study will use a combination of quantitative and qualitative research to explain the ways globalization and mass consumption have affected various continental African communities, both socioeconomically, culturally and environmentally. The research will use a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer the question of how African communities are affected by globalization and mass consumption. Right now, primary sources include newspaper articles and trade agreements with various African nations, but through research, it is my hope to find government documents such as reports, bills, or hearings, as well as scientific journals that report experimental research results. Secondary sources will include textbooks, history books, and journal articles. While qualitative research would suffice in determining the validity of the hypothesis, the use of quantitative research will give readers a more in-depth look at how various African nations are impacted by the effects of globalization and mass consumption.
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So far, the research has supported the hypothesis that globalization and mass consumption have negatively impacted various African nations, exploiting them for many of their natural resources. While these effects are sure to have a negative impact on the environment, the consequences are far reaching, and affect not only the environment, but also the socioeconomic status and cultural norms, replacing tradition, with a more modernized way of life that has not always been beneficial to Africa as a whole. Through further discussion and research of the world-system theory, we will be able to see how our globalization and mass consumption have led to the exploitation of African nations who are typically viewed as underdeveloped, poor and low skilled periphery nations through the world-system theory.
[i] Thomson, Julie R. “Pig Farmers Are Struggling To Keep Up With America’s Bacon Needs.” The Huffington Post. July 20, 2017. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bacon-shortage-high-prices_us_596e0c59e4b0e983c058fba2; Schlanger, Zo. “What Will Happen When Hurricane Florence Hits North Carolina’s Massive Pig Manure Lagoons?” Quartz. September 18, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://qz.com/1386629/hurricane-florence-threatens-north-carolinas-pig-manure-lagoons/; “Exports in the Spotlight.” NC Pork Council. Accessed September 27, 2018. http://www.ncpork.org/exports/.
[vii] http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-index-hdi; http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/TGO.pdf
[viii] Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are failing and What Can Be Done about It. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
[ix] Ritzer, George. The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
[x] Kerkmez, Ray. “World Systems Theory and Contemporary Globalization – Globalization & International Economic Law.” Academia.edu – Share Research. Accessed September 27, 2018. http://www.academia.edu/1908557/World_Systems_Theory_and_Contemporary_Globalization_-_Globalization_and_International_Economic_Law; Ibid II; Robbins, Richard H., and Rachel Dowty. Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism. New York: Pearson Education, 2019.
[xi] Kukoč, Mislav. “Liberal Philosophy and Globalization.” April 22, 2009.
[xii] Mass consumption. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved September 27 2018 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Mass+consumption
[xiii] “Cultural.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cultural.
[xiv] “Socioeconomic.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socioeconomic.
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