Friday, March 17, 2006

Collaboration and Cooperation?

Today I was taken back to my undergraduate years when I remember grappling with modules like Micro Economics, Macro Economics, Principles of Public Relations and Principles of Marketing. I have to admit that for someone who came from an Arts background in high school this was quiet heavy staff. Knowing about the forces of demand and supply, free market economy and all that other economic jargon was something to contend with. I am happy that today when Josie Rowe-Sezt (consultant) presented a seminar on Competition, Collaboration and Cooperation I wasn’t that too lost in it.

Her presentation touched on so many important aspects that are important for the survival of developing countries, especially South Africa in a world of trade liberalization and globalisation. I think that competition is healthy in any environment for it ensures that standards and procedures are set when processes of anything are being carried out. Competition ensures survival of the fittest and discards any misfits/undesirable elements in society. In the context of developing countries and developed countries competition is welcome but I believe that it must take cognisance of the various levels of development in our side of the continent versus the west. I think this is all the more important when I think of the massive diversity in the levels of development say between America and Zimbabwe for instance. America is so advanced in terms of information and communication technologies, infrastructure, its industries anything you can think off not to mention the advantages it has over other countries because of its power. In contrast Zimbabwe is just; well it’s just another poor country.

I believe that trade has to take cognizance of the economic advantages or disadvantages for individual countries. Following a singular or narrow minded view of global trade may not be reflective of cooperation and collaboration and may not produce positive if at all relevant results for all involved. Most developing countries lack the technology and expertise to compete on the same level with developed countries. There is a situation where stronger countries are pushing weaker ones out of the trade picture. It has created the need for countries particularly in Southern Africa to form economic policies that affect foreign direct investment. One can notice that there are now some restrictive labour laws, property laws, company laws or controlling the value of the local currency for instance.

I believe that there is need for both developed and developing countries to assess their needs and to chat the way forward cooperatively instead of exploiting each other. It would seem that developing countries are at risk due to the effects of globalization because they are seen as a dumping site for cheaply produced products which erode the value of our own local products. At the same time the small number of products we can present on the world market are subjected to a lot of restrictions. There are new laws that have to take into consideration the environment and hygienic practices and other such like obstacles that are just meant to push out our products or lower the selling price of producer goods. I just wonder if there is anything called competition on the global world because if its there, then it’s not fair. Cooperation and collaboration? I doubt, it looks like arm twisting to me where developing countries are simply placed between a rock and a hard place.