Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 18:33 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 18:33 | SYDNEY

Globalisation = homogenisation?


Sam Roggeveen


9 June 2010 11:10

Via Thomas Barnett's blog, an encouraging Wall St Journal article on the African economy, which looks at young African consumer-goods companies that are trying to emulate foreign companies that previously faced no competition. The Nakumat supermarket chain is an example:

Nakumatt chose to emulate an American icon: Kmart. On a visit to Florida in the 1980s, founder Atul Shah, a former mattress salesman, wandered into a Kmart and marveled at its cleanliness...

Mr. Shah is furiously expanding Nakumatt...where it today is the dominant supermarket in Kenya. Its 24 stores appeal to a middle-class that wants Kenyan-made products as well as imports from Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

The typical left-wing complaint about globalisation is that it leads to homogenisation — local cultures crushed under the heal of rampant multinationals. But this example demonstrates that globalisation can also encourage localism and diversity.

An SMH piece I read some months ago about a small Australian cafe in London (sorry, can't find the link) had a similar moral. The English, famously, had not a clue about coffee; then along came Starbucks and a bunch of other chains to raise the bar slightly, which in turn has whet the appetite of Londoners for smaller outlets serving still better coffee.

Closer to home, the homogenisation complaint doesn't really work for Australia either. Here, the boom in American fast food eateries, beginning in the early seventies, more or less coincided with the growth of ethnic cuisine.

Photo by Flickr user lokulin, used under a Creative Commons license.