The world is flat - A critique of Thomas Friedman's bestseller

Topics: Africa, The World Is Flat, Late-2000s recession Pages: 8 (2823 words) Published: March 1, 2014
Now more than ever, it is extremely necessary for people to ask questions and check the veracity of every claim, thought or position. This is important because postulations that are allowed to thrive without questioning might easily be mistaken for facts upon which concrete decisions and policy making will be based by stakeholders around the world.

There has been so much talk about globalization, especially in the last decade. In fact, it is the globalization debate that metamorphosed into the more recent discussion about outsourcing and offshoring that has been more prevalent in the USA than in any other part of the world. The issue is so vital that it became a flashpoint during the presidential debates among President Obama and Mitt Romney. It has also being a continuous source of tension that went as far as threatening the relations between the USA and China.

Multiple award winning author, Thomas Friedman wrote a bestseller on the issue of globalization. He took the ‘globalization’ discussion one or two notches higher when he said that the world is flat. In his book The world is flat; He presented narratives to support the assertion that world economies were thriving on international collaboration transfer of service and that everything had gone global. He cited many instances of trans-border trade and collaboration and while his views might be valid to an extent, it appears as if they were over-exaggerated as Pankaj showed while presenting a TED talk.

Pankaj in his talk showed with the help of statistics, how the world is not as flat as Mr. Friedman says it is. He also observed – like I did, that Mr. Friedman’s view is based on his personal experiences from his travels and interaction with a sizeable amount of individuals: The book lacked any academic or scholarly references!

Apart from the evident over-exaggeration of the globalization issue, the book appears to be one-sided in its treatment of the globalization debacle. In treating a topic of that level of importance, one would have expected to see some opposing views to bring some balance into the presentation. The said lack of balance robs the book of any scholastic status its author might have intended for it to have. Opinions-in my opinion, are more tenable and scholarly when they stand in the face of decent opposition.

Where is Africa in the equation?

“In May 2000, The Economist magazine declared that Africa was “the hopeless continent.” Eleven years later, in 2011, it referred to Africa as “the hopeful continent.” And on October 20, 2012, the magazine stated: “In recent years investors have been piling into Lagos and Nairobi as if they were Frankfurt and Tokyo of old.”” (Nesbit, F.N 2012.)

Because of its large reserves of natural resources, a huge human population, and the other resources that remain untapped in various areas, it is hardly understandable why anyone would have referred to Africa as hopeless in the year 2000 or at any time in history. Africa has always been a pivotal part of world trade, as consumers if not as producers. This ‘sin’ of neglecting Africa in the scheme of things is even more unpardonable especially as it was committed (by Mr. Friedman through his book) in 2005 when things were looking up for the continent. Mr. Friedman’s book made no real mention of Africa and that –in my opinion- is a huge shortfall of the book.

How can anyone talk about our world without talking about Africa? It is not surprising that Africa wasn’t well mentioned though, a cursory study of the book will reveal why. With an abundant collection of “stand-alone” success stories, the African narrative is an antithesis of the globalization story that Mr. Friedman so gracefully told. I am an African from Nigeria and I know that the Nigerian story – even in international trade, doesn’t support the heightened awareness that Mr. Friedman’s book supplies in abundance about the flattening of the world. Africa, like some other parts of the world still...
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