Cultural Competitiveness Necessary During Globalisation

Ethiopia is a country with a trove of different cultures and languages. They have been studied intensely and have grabbed the attention of foreigners. We likewise are proud of them and show our enthusiasm by celebrating them in multiple occasions. Despite this, we have not succeeded in preserving them adequately due to cultural diffusion.

Cultural diffusion takes place when different cultures spread into different areas. The mixing or blending of different ideas, beliefs and innovations between one group and another diffuses culture. It happens all over the world. From cultural foods to new technologies, there is constant interaction. Cultures can adopt new ideas and use them as they are, or they can fashion them in a manner that suits their needs and wants.

Trade, warfare and migration are the three basic ways that cultural diffusion takes place. When various areas of the world trade, goods are incorporated into different cultures where they may not have been before. The goods can be adopted or modified for use in these new areas.

Any time two or more groups come together during warfare, cultures can be blended. Different groups of people bring their cultures across borders, from one place to another, through migration.

There can be many positive effects of this. Many cultures have benefited from cultural exchanges. During European colonisation, Africans learned of new foods and kinds of pets. These changed their cultures as they were able to expand their diets, as well as benefit from the introduction of new domesticated breeds.

Another positive effect is the sharing of new technologies around the world. Inventions such as the telescope, the printing press, steam engines, cars and computers have all had big impacts on how people live. For all the complaints about the dominance of Western culture around the globe, it cannot be denied that such tools have brought about convenience to our lives. Such innovations have also increased the rate at which cultural diffusion can take place.

The interaction between cultures is not always positive though. To begin with, the process has often led to conflict. Cultures compete, and the one that is about to lose its prominence often has adherents behind it that will try to hold on.

There are many who, throughout history, have not welcomed the process of cultural diffusion. For hundreds of years, Chinese emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties restricted relationships with foreign countries and did not allow trade to take place with the outside world.

Chinese emperors were concerned that their cultures would be weakened by the introduction of ideas from other cultures. It was a highly ethnocentric view and led to an uncompromising view that no other culture was worth coming into contact with.

With the advancement of technology in the 21st century, such protectionism is virtually impossible. If nothing else, trade is a fundamental component of a country’s economy and can barely be avoided. Likewise, China has adopted this order, becoming one of the foremost adherents of globalisation.

Ethiopia is not different, as its history in the past used to be. It is a nation built around the concept of cultural diffusion. There are dozens of lingo-cultural groups, and some of our cities are melting pots of cultures. There are more foods, dresses, dances, languages and conflict management systems than most of us can name.

We also come into contact with the products of different cultures in overseas countries on a daily basis. Being an import-dependent country, the clothing, vehicles and the electronic products we own are often manufactured in other countries and then shipped to Ethiopia. Most importantly, we are importing a way of life.

This has not been without its drawbacks. It is often the case that a dominant culture replaces another and that is what seems to be happening to Ethiopia. It is especially disconcerting that foreign cultures are diffusing and influencing the youth. Diversity is important, and the fact that the youth has a broader worldview is not a bad thing. But it is detrimental to our history and culture when we have done an inadequate job of disseminating our culture.

Cultural diffusion happens every day and will continue to occur due to the fact that new technology has caused countries to become completely interdependent. Ethiopia should not shy away from this, nor should we try to syphon ourselves off from cultures that come from outside. Cultural diffusion is important to our political and economic well-being.

Instead, we should strive to make our culture competitive on the world stage as well as in the hearts of the youth. This can be promoting our cultures, incorporating them into the educational curriculum and developing more cultural museums. The government should also find a way to attract skilled human power into the art industry.

By Belay Abera
Belay Abera is a public health professional and researcher. He can be reached at

Published on Aug 25,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 956]



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