Global economics and your pocketbook
Last week I had a moment when the confusion of globalization washed over me…
I got into one of Kigali’s tiny city buses, officially called matatus, but affectionately known as a “one-more” because one more person can always be squeezed into the already sardine-packed vehicle. (The size of a Toyota Previa, seats 18). These buses are scrawled in Mandarin script— they were likely hand-me-downs from one of China’s cities after realizing that they were no longer safe enough to transport people by China’s standards. Most of these buses have some other art added— usually hand-drawn paintings of Barack Obama, Canadian flags, Arabic calligraphy, or Bob Marley. I hop in and instantly notice that the interior is decorated floor to ceiling with Manchester United stickers. The radio in the bus is playing in a familiar mélange of French (the colonial language of Rwanda) and Kinyarwanda (the indigenous language of Rwanda.) I learn that we are listening to an international friendly football match with Egypt. From my bag, I take out the material I am currently reading, Agamemmnon, from a book of a collection of classic Greek plays. As it happens, I am on my way to an North African-fusion pizza restaurant. Of course, I know I am in Rwanda… but… wait… am I?
Globalization can really confuse a girl…
The fact that I am even here—a Canadian of European heritage—sitting in this very bus, itself already an object of globalization, tells me that the world is colliding with itself.
Although the globalization of commerce and culture has long been something of interest to me, being quite literally on the opposite side of the globe has brought to light again the incredible and unstoppable force of globalization. A devoted consumer of many things that could never grow in my own country— coffee, mangoes, coconut, the list goes on— it has been fascinating to be in the place where my money goes when I purchase those products. It’s amazing to think that my $2.75 in Canada ripples over here to Rwanda and ultimately funds Joe Schmoe or Jane Doe in my own neighbourhood of Kigali.
The coffee I choose to buy could fund a multinational with no quality standards and poor treatment of workers, or it could fund a small micro-lot farm, run by coffee-quality gurus, roasted by passionate experts, and ultimately sold in a locally-owned coffee house committed to its trade. Both are equally commercial, and each has its upsides and downsides, but in this century the difference is that I have the ability to witness the effects of my transactions.
I am a firm believer that we are not just members of our own municipal, provincial and national society, but that more and more, our community is global. Everything we buy, say, do in our own country has a whiplash effect on our neighbours: Europe, Africa, Asia, the ocean, the rainforest… everywhere. In this generation, there are no longer isolated economic or political events.
This is preaching to the choir for most Kivans… Kiva lenders have long understood that their economic activities in the West will ripple across the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, and Indian oceans and wave up on someone else’s shore. They have chosen to embrace this fact and expedite the process via the internet and actually finance businesses in the developing world. Cross-cultural lending is just one expression of our community and economy that is ever becoming more global.
I would like to challenge all of us to let our transactions reflect the world we wish to see. As I mentioned in my previous blog about peace in Rwanda, I truly believe that microfinance is an actor in perpetuating peace on Earth. What do you value? If use our money with love, we will spread love. If we buy carelessly, there will be careless effects on the world, and often the most vulnerable. (OK, now I’m really starting to sound hippy-dippy). I am encouraged as I witness the Kiva project in action, as I know that every borrower I meet in Rwanda was funded by largely a “developed world” set of investors. I am encouraged that so many people are choosing to let the global impact of their transactions be a good one! Let’s continue to have an impact for good on this truly global community of ours.
If you haven’t already made a loan, please help finance an entrepreneur in the developing world.