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Globalisation and Rural Development in Africa: The Case of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline.

Fondo Sikod

CSGR Working Paper 203/06 

April 2006

The process of globalisation is multifaceted. One is smiling and promising, the other looks less attractive, if not threatening. It is the process of growing interdependence of countries worldwide through the increasing volume of cross-border transactions in goods and services and of capital flows, and also through the more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology (The International Monetary Fund, 2001). It is bringing new ways of life and opportunities to the door steps of people in just about all parts of the world. The benefits of the process can be very uneven, with the strong getting stronger and the weak becoming weaker. Marginal groups such as women, the poor and the rural can be particularly affected, with little expectations for social and economic equality. Globalisation, as understood today, feeds on knowledge. Probably the most important source of inequality is the knowledge gap.

This paper is about the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project. This is a 3.7 billion US dollars, 1070 km pipeline project constructed to transport crude oil from fields in southwestern Chad to Kribi on the Atlantic coast of Cameroon. The project is owned by a consortium of trans-national oil companies: Exxon-Mobil, Petronas of Malaysia, and Chevron of the United States. This is the largest foreign direct investment in Sub-Sahara Africa so far.

The main message of the paper is that because of the knowledge gap, the rural communities and the poor tend to be excluded from globalisation. This was confirmed in the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project. The rural communities did not benefit either from employment or from compensations for their crops and property destroyed. This was because they did not have enough knowledge and skills to get more. Thus, the project confirmed what literature on globalisation says: the rich get richer and the poor, poorer.

The project has come and gone, leaving behind mostly bitter feelings on the part of the rural communities affected. There has been very little, if any improvement in the lives of the people. They feel mostly violated and abused, especially as there were surges in alcoholism, prostitution, and some drug use, whenever the construction activities were within any village. Globalization can be brutal, especially if the receiving community is not fully prepared to accommodate changes. This was the case of the rural communities where the pipeline passed. They knew it was coming, but they were not ready for it. The outcome has not had the anticipated developmental effect.