Charles Bassey, Central Bank of Nigeria
Modern society is characterized by a new economy, engendered by convergence of globalization and information and communication technology (ICT), riding on the backbone of the Internet. An important aspect of this convergence is that information has become codified in a manner that makes it possible for quick and cheap processing and distribution. In effect, information has become a dematerialized economic entity and a measure of wealth. Sadly, this new economy encompasses the vicissitudes of the old, magnifying extant “object gaps” with new and stringent forms of “ideas gaps”. The consequence is that developing countries (like those of sub-Saharan Africa) have to confront the twin challenges of technology inequality and income inequality with the uncanny option of devoting attention to fighting the former as a means to addressing the latter.
Introducing money as a dematerialized entity into the discourse of new economy, this paper discusses modern society as an autopoietic system, a lá Luhmann, and how the digitalization of its engine – money – strengthens extant inequalities as manifested in the observed disparities between developed and developing countries. This is premised upon the use of distance and space as tools to condition the dynamics of access and control which vast segments of human population are drawn into as they interact within modern economic system. In this wise, we see money as a specific form of value, around which institutions and markets have evolved. In exploring the evolution of institutions and markets around money, we also see how the place of money in human interaction has become strengthened within the contexts of exchange, ownership, greed, extravagance, etc.
Given the prevalence of digital money as an economic exchange, it is imperative to assess the effect of convergence of globalization and ICT on sub-Saharan Africa and how this convergence challenges, as well as holds prospects, for the development of an effective payment system. Except for South Africa, much of sub-Saharan Africa is faced with either a history of lack of information infrastructure or lack of large and functional domestic market for ICT, or both. There is path dependence to the penetration of digital money into the payment systems of Africa. At national and regional levels, efforts are being made to work in concert with other countries within monetary zones to bridge obvious gaps. However certain roadblocks abound, bordering on political and financial governance, infrastructure, altruism and the gift system, money spraying, visibility, trust, among others. Added to these are issues of ideological disposition and enforcement of operational rules. Understanding these roadblocks and their dynamic nature is critical in developing effective payment system globally. It is the thesis of this paper that unlike the old economy, the functioning of new economy is dependent on existence of functional infrastructure upon which modern money institutions ride, given the power of time and space distanciation and its potential consequences on money relationships.
About the author
Charles Bassey (PhD, Sociology) is Assistant Manager, Security Research and Development, Central Bank of Nigeria. His job role involves security risk management, fraud investigation, security research and policy development. He has consulted for several organizations and evaluated projects on ICT, rural telephony, governance, etc, published in the areas of leadership and food security and participated in training of security personnel. He is a member of American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and International Sociological Association.