Date: Thu, 12 Mar 98 23:35:36 CST
From: Robert Naiman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: ACAS: The Case Against the "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act"
The Case Against the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act [H.R. 1432]
From the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars http://www.prairienet.org/acas/acasback.html
8 March 1998
Since the end of the Cold War US policy toward Africa has drifted and
become increasingly erratic. ACAS thus welcomes new thinking and
initiatives. Unfortunately our analysis suggests that the new Africa
Growth and Opportunity Act does not represent a step forward in
US-African relations. And many Africans agree.
The Act does break new ground: it proposes, along with other
initiatives, to shift our relationship with Africa from aid to trade.
This recognizes a reality: US aid to Africa has been steadily declining
since the early 1990s. Many, most notably the Congressional Black
Caucus, have called for aid to be restored to the levels of the early
1990s, including the restoration of earmarked sums as is still provided
for Eastern Europe, Israel/Egypt, etc. The President's proposed 1998
budget continues the downward trend with slight increases only in
military training and debt relief.
To replace this faltering commitment the Act proposes to promote
African exports to the US and US investment in Africa.
Promoters of the Act, however, have been unable to demonstrate how
African producers will benefit, beyond possibly some slight increases
in textile exports from Kenya and Mauritius--and even these, as US
trade unions point out, may simply be transshipments from Asia. How
producers of other manufactures, much less raw materials--and
particularly oil which is 70% of US imports from Africa--might benefit
is not at all evident.
Those who will benefit from this change in administration policy are
obvious. As reported in the South African business magazine, Finance
Week: "the prime beneficiaries of the Clinton African plan are the
major American corporations" (June 5-11, 1997:17). Hundreds of millions
of dollars in guarantees are specifically allocated to insure US
investment, particularly those who reap the rewards of the forced
privatization of African telecommunications and infrastructure.
The rules are of course quite different for African governments: to
qualify for any assistance, particularly in the crucial area of debt
relief, African governments must accept structural adjustment and free
market provisions. NAFTA-like provisions to link US-African markets
likewise target independent African regional market initiatives.
African trade unions, church groups, women's organizations and a broad
coalition of groups representing civil society have all raised serious
questions about these provisions, which have most often meant cutting
education and social programs while exacerbating inequality.
Organizations representing these African forces have even persuaded the
World Bank to engage in a joint, two year long study of the effect of
these programs in four African countries to better understand and
critique the consequences of these programs.
In short, while the bill's promoters speak of assisting Africans,
African-Americans, and women, the only group targeted for assistance
are the multinationals who largely control Africa's trade and access to
For over two decades we have witnessed the US, the IMF, and the World
Bank insist on structural adjustment, foreign investment, and export
promotion as the solution to Africa's development crisis--and reject
real debt relief while cutting aid levels. It is time to recognize that
these policies have failed, and led not to growth but inequality and
Those seeking more equitable and beneficial relationships with Africa
Reducing multinational corporations' control over African exports and
Promoting fair prices for Africa's exports, particularly raw materials
and processed goods,
Supporting African democratic movements, and human and academic rights,
Setting aside structural adjustment policies--as is being discussed in
Providing more equitable, earmarked aid--as is done for other areas of
For further information see the ACAS web site
ASSOCIATION OF CONCERNED AFRICA SCHOLARS
8 March 1998