Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 174-177
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
The Aftermath of Globalization on African Identity
Bonachrist us Umeogu
Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
Received August 6th, 2012; re vise d Sept ember 10 th, 20 1 2; accepted September 23rd, 2012
The rope nations and people have held on in order to climb up to a better life, is now threatening to draw
them back into a pit of oblivion. What will it profit a nation to become civilized and lose its identity in the
process? How will people of today look in the face of future generation and fumble at excuses to explain
why they are not regarded as a cultural group of its own? This paper tries to show how globalization has
led to the loss of cultural identity in Nigeria.
Keywords: Culture; Identity; Globalization; Identity Loss
Anthony Giddens saw globalization as the intensification of
worldwide social relations which links distant localities in such
a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring
many miles away and vice versa. That is to say that globaliza-
tion is a compressing and unifying force that binds the world
together. Be that as it may, there is more to globalization than
meet the eyes. No matter how promising the prospects of glob-
alization looks or appeals to a nation, there is always a price. In
some cases, morality or ethics might be the price. However,
most often than not, the price is loss of identity amongst other.
If a nation loses its identity, what does it become? This paper
tries to mirror how globalization results to loss of identity.
The position of this paper does not contest the fact that glob-
alization has upgraded the life of countries and nation. This
paper through review of articles will explore the areas that
globalization in the course of bettering the lives of people have
resulted in the loss of cultural identities and heritage.
There are so many concerns of globalization as it affects
education, politics, sports, economy and even information. That
notwithstanding, this paper tries to look at globalization as it
affects cultural i d e n ti t y of a developing country like Nigeria.
From time immemorial, man has always evolved some form
of interaction with his surroundings. Man as a social being has
always had the need to interact with others and with his/her
environment at large. By nature, man has also been a curious
being with the insatiable need of knowing about neighbors. It is
then of little wonder why he is seen as a social animal. Again,
man’s needs are insatiable which had led to a form of depend-
ency and interdependency among men. Globalization stepped
into the gap to address man’s insatiable thirst.
By way of explanation, Wikipedia sees it or refers to global-
ization as the “process or processes of international integra-
tion. In the process of interaction between nations and coun-
tries; ideas, religions, language, arts, and other aspects of cul-
ture are interchanged, upgraded or modified.
Who would have ever imagined that the existence and rele-
vance of traditional modes of communication will ever be
threatened by the modern media? How did English language
become the official lingua franca of many countries including
Nigeria? How was Christianity introduced into a highly tradi-
tional society like Nigeria? There are so many “how’s”, but all
has one answer which is through civilization that came through
Coming to definition of globalization, it has many opera-
tional definitions as there are researchers because each person
defines it within the context of his/her study. That notwith-
standing, we will try to look at some definitions.
Roland Robertson (1992) saw globalization as the “compres-
sion of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of
the world as a whole”. In a similar vein, Albrow & King (1992)
saw it as “all those processes by which the peoples of the world
are incorporated into a single world society”.
For Dukor (2010: p. 135), globalization ideally,
Is the philosophy of a cosmopolitan city that benefits all
races; no center and periphery nations, where every race
match up and down without fear or favour in the global
ways and village. He also saw it as a process by which a
network of cultural, political and economic advantages
and interests of different peoples of the world work natu-
ralistically for their mutual benefit.
In all the definitions, one striking similarity that can be de-
duced from them is that globalization is the manifestation of the
global village predicted by Marshal McLuhan in 1964. That is,
it is the overall result of miniaturizing, summarizing and com-
pressing the world into McLuhan’s “global village”. If not how
else will you explain a scenario where,
Business people on different continents now engage in
electronic commerce; television allows people situated
anywhere to observe the impact of terrible wars being
waged far from the comfort of their living rooms; aca-
demics make use of the latest video conferencing equip-
ment to organize seminars in which participants are lo-
cated at disparate geographical locations; the Internet al-
lows people to communicate instantaneously with each
other notwithstanding vast geographical distances sepa-
rating them, Scheuerman (2010).
As regards identity, globalization has contributed to the
alienation of individuals from their traditions. Identity here is
all about cultural identity; what distinguishes one culture from
another. It can be seen as the traits, characteristics, qualities,
beliefs that make a group stand out among many. Ogugua 2007
in Ogugua & Oduah (2007: p. 5) submitted that culture is a
mark of identity; it separates man from the animals and at the
same time divides societies … globalization distorts the culture,
changing peoples pattern of editing, dressing, talking etc.
Capturing this was Dukor who poignantly asserted that,
… in globalization, the identity of minority ethnic groups
among nations is as important as the identity question of
races among races … In a globalized world, ethnic iden-
tity is mostly one unique element that is usually under
threat. All ethnic groups, be it so called majority or mi-
nority, easily identify their ethnicity by their cultural val-
ues which are sacrosanct to them. In other words, ethnic
group identities find meaning in their cultural forms, so-
cial situation, history and kinship system that make up
their social intercourses Dukor (2010: p. 140).
Culture distinguishes a group of people from others. It is so
unique to a group that it is meant to be guarded jealously. It is
that “thing” that will make you say that; this person speaks like
a South African or she dresses like an Igbo woman. By way of
definition, Umeogu & Ojiakor (2012) saw “Culture as the cus-
toms, beliefs, art, music, and all other products of human
thought made by a particular group of people at a particular
time. This culture is what distinguishes one culture from an-
other, or a kind of identification which when exhibited reveals
or gives inkling to where you came from”. Can the African
cultural identity stand in the face of cultural globalization?
Globalization and Cultural Identity
To address the Socio-cultural impacts of globalization on na-
tional identity, I must say that it is two legged in that one can-
not eat one’s cake and still have it. Every society that has been
touched by globalization has had its identity changed either
positively or negatively. National identity according to Burton
is “the shared beliefs and behaviours of a group, which form the
basis for creating meaning for the persons who count them-
selves to be a part of the culture”.
One of the impacts and which happens to be the thrust of this
paper is that people have become confused of who they really
are. They have confused their beliefs with the western ones and
the behaviors of foreign countries have become the yardstick
for measuring acceptable and current behaviors. The bitter truth
is that our culture and its identity have been lost under the
overwhelming influence of foreign culture. Foreign here means
cultures that were not adopted from other African countries that
have similarity in ways of life.
Most if not all cultures have been undergoing changes within
the context of the current variety of globalization, so the likeli-
hood of cultural change within the range of just the culture’s
needs is quite remote. There has been a drastic change in the
mode of dressing, the popular language of communication,
eating habits, and to the extent of sexuality. These changes have
been either in the negative or positive. There are forms of
dressing that identify a particular country like the Indian sari,
the South African skin, the Igbo wrapper and what have you.
Nowadays, jeans, pants and suits have replaced all this. There
has been a mix up that in some cases, it is the skin colour that
tells people apart.
Also, there is technological advancement especially in the
area of communication, connectedness. According to Burton,
“The main tool for the transfer of cultural values from one
country or location to another is through various communica-
tion channels such as the media, the internet, other telecommu-
nication tools and trade”.
To contextualize it, globalization has given minorities a
sense of belonging in the sense that one can be here and be
updated of what is happening there. Again, physical contacts
have been heightened because travelling especially by air has
been made affordable even to the common man who wants to
experience the world from above. Globalization has also helped
people to relax in the sense that people have come to realize
that life is managed. This has led to a situation where people go
on vacations to unwind and destress for a longer and healthier
life. Be that as it may, let us concentrate on the effect on cul-
tural identity.
Coming to globalization and cultural identity proper, one
may say that Globalization has had disastrous consequences on
the governments and people of the African continent. We begin
this section with the words of Dukor (2010: p. 135) that, “there
has been a historical erosion of African identity and authentic-
ity through the process of colonialism, neo colonialism and
imperialism”. That is, there is the tendency of loss of cultural
identities by the one thing that is meant to work for us.
With regards to the relationship between globalization and
identity loss, Ugwueye submits that,
Africans risk losing their cultural heritage in the face of
globalization, not because their heritage is obsolete or in-
ferior but because people have been so taken in by what is
western. This sort of cultural imperialism, which seeks to
enslave the African mind, has left in its wake a cultureless
or culturally disoriented people … Ugwueye (2007: p. 109).
Why won’t the people be taken in by westernization when
the only readily available form of cultural program is the West-
ern ones? Globalization has always had a great impact on cul-
tural identity. “Today, in an age when discrete cultures them-
selves are under threat, the question of cultural identity be-
comes newly problematic and takes on new urgency. The rea-
son for this importance lies in the preservation of the tradi-
tional cultures and values that are carefully being sewn into the
entanglements of globalization” Malgaj (2009).
How did globalization become so powerful to the extent of
threatening national identities? The answer is in the massive
flow of cultural products from developed country so much so
that there is little or no room for indigenous cultural products in
the cultural market. The resultant effect is cultural synchroniza-
tion which invariably leads to identity loss of the recipients.
The picture of identity loss was captured by Umeogu & Oji-
akor (2012) in the following words:
Who am I? Who are we? This is the type of question that
subsequent generations will ask if the rate of cultural de-
pendency on foreign material is not checkmated. This
situation will be an aftermath of the elimination of culture.
When a country consciously or unconsciously loses its
identifying traits, what will they become? If “A” ceases to
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 175
be “A” or blends into “B”, what happens to “A” when it
comes to sovereignty and location?
Explaining the reason for the above scenario is Okunna who
observed that:
Whether through their importation of western media cul-
ture or through the barrage of western television culture
which flows into their countries through Direct Broadcast
Satellite (DBS) over which they have no control, devel-
oping countries are at the receiving end as alien cultures
which are alienating their peoples from their own coun-
tries” (Okunna, 1999: p. 145).
Another contribution was from Chinnammai, S. (2005: p. 1)
who asserted that … It (globalization) reflects the effect on
culture and brings about a new form of cultural imperialism.
The rise of new cultural imperialism is shaping children, the
future citizens of the world into global citizens”, intelligent
people with a broad range of skills and knowledge to apply to a
competitive, information based society.
One of such skills is the mastery of English language at the
detriment of local languages. According to Malgaj (2009),
… what helps these processes is the global dominance of
English. This factor has a big importance in the issue of
cultural identity and globalization. The current era is one
in which corporations are the central producers and dis-
tributors of cultural products. The vast majority of these
products originate within the USA and other western
countries. It is clearly the availability of cheap and rapid
communication and knowledge of one common language
that permits the phenomena of integration of international
capital market. Knowledge of English gives people that
chance to communicate with other human beings around
the world.
Have you ever witnessed a scenario where the children of
nowadays visit the villages? Communication is virtually im-
possible because they cannot understand what the villagers are
saying and vice versa. There was this particular case where a
grandmother told his son to take his children back to the city
because there was no form of communication since the children
only speak and understand English language. Any form of
communication was possible if their parents were there to play
an interpretative role. It sounds funny but that is how obsolete
our native language is becoming.
Non Appreciability of Culture
Non appreciation of culture leads to loss of identity amongst
other reasons. Identity shoots out from cultural beliefs and
practices. In other words, when there is loss of cultural values,
there is loss of identity. If that is the case, when one loses
his/her identity and takes on another one, is it still a case of
identity loss since there is something to be identified with? The
question is vividly answered by Umeogu & Ojiakor (2012) who
submitted that “If A c eases to be A or blends into B’, what
happens to Awhen it comes to sovereignty and location? ‘A
will no longer be in existence”.
The truth is that many people especially the younger genera-
tion are not proud of their culture. It is not contestable that civi-
lization has bettered the lives of people, but however, greed,
materialism and inferiority complex is now threatening to
drown our culture.
Look at a country like China, in the face of globalization;
they are still proud of their dressing, food, language, mode of
life. So much so that many Universities has created Confucius
Institute where Chinese is learnt. If they were not proud of their
identity, others will not have longed to be part of that heritage.
Capturing the Chinese experience is Dukor, though referring to
Africa, submitted that “across the length and breadth of Afri-
can and African communities, there is that conscious and in-
exorable desire by the people to preserve their aboriginal cul-
tures, retain their identity and live the authentic life…” (2007: p.
Sadly, in virtually every third world country, mass media
audiences consume large quantities of foreign media culture. It
is feared that this massive exposure to foreign culture could
distort and displace native cultures in developing countries,
Okunna, 1999 in Umeogu & Ojiakor, 2012).
Well, it is no longer feared because it has finally happened.
This thirst has done Nigerians more harm than good. There has
been increase in crime, immorality, vices, lack of respect for
elders and ways of life. In fact, Globalization is our doom. In
the process of tearing down barriers in the areas of culture and
economic, it also tore down the walls of morals and have
thrown morality to the dogs. Immorality in the name of being
compliant or westernized has become the order of the day. The
bottom line is that the vices of the developed world have been
imported into the developing world by globalization. Thomas
Larsson states that globalization “is the process of world
shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It
pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one
side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody
on the other side of the world”. What mutual benefits have
Nigerians gotten from globalization as regards culture and
In the original Nigerian culture, armed robbery, indecent
dressing, single parenthood, prostitution was frowned upon, but
in this borrowed robes we call westernization or civilization, it
is seen as a way of life. Seeing such vices as a way of life could
be traced to what is gotten from the media. As Okunna rightly
… because mass communication is such a powerful vehi-
cle for the dissemination of culture, there has always been
fears that massive flow of foreign mass media contents
into societies other than those in which such contents are
produced, will negatively influence local culture (Okunna,
1999: p. 142).
The Aftermath
With the speed that Nigeria is fast losing her identity, what
will be the fate of generations unborn? What will be taught
during history lessons?
What will be our pride in the nearest future? Ugwueye (2007:
p. 104) asserts that “Africans today, can rarely define the rules
and regulations of their economy, production, credits and ex-
change of goods and services due to rampaging menace of
globalization”. That is of today, what will be the situation in the
next decade?
Another aftermath is the impoverishment of the people. Infe-
riority complex, greed and materialism have led to a situation
where locally made goods are not appreciated at all. The result
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 177
is a situation where the local firms and entrepreneurs are run
out of business where foreign ones boom the market. Thereafter,
the poor get poorer as there is no equal playing ground to com-
pete with the foreign firms.
How do we even begin to talk on morality? Vices like mate-
rialism; disrespect for human life and dignity; organized crime;
and Sexual perversion have become the order of the day all in
the name of exercising fundamental human rights. Did our fore
fathers not exercise their rights when it came to morality? They
did. Nowadays, the definition of morality is quite distinct from
what is now obtainable. And that is the reason why this paper
maintains that the vices of the developed world have been im-
ported into the developing world by globali zation.
This paper does not mean to paint globalization as a monster.
Rather, we wanted to point out that globalization, which ideally
is meant to give people options and ideas to update their culture,
has turned to be the fall of many cultures. This is because of the
inequality in power structure among the global players; coun-
tries like Nigeria now found themselves at the receiving end
where they are forced to join “them” since they cannot beat
“them”. The situation is worsened by the quantity of foreign
cultural products consumed by the people; thereby further
weakens their resolve sending the original cultures of the peo-
ple into oblivion.
Every individual, society or nation is blessed and endowed
with special qualities that should not be allowed to fade into
oblivion because of the desire to homogenize with another cul-
ture. The fact that as it has been said that all fingers are not
equal, so it is that all men, nations, societies are not equal. Ni-
gerians in particular and African in general should understand
that the fact that we are not equal with the western giants does
not make us less a “finger”. No matter our size and footing
globally we should be proud of who we are.
This paper advises that people slow down in the consumption
and thirst for foreign products and life so as to salvage our cul-
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