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Date: Thu, 12 Mar 98 23:35:36 CST
From: Robert Naiman <naiman@citizen.org>
Subject: ACAS: The Case Against the "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act"
Article: 29828
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.4428.19980314181520@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

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 rich markets.

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 increasing poverty.

Those seeking more equitable and beneficial relationships with Africa might consider:

Reducing multinational corporations' control over African exports and markets,

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 Asia, and

Providing more equitable, earmarked aid--as is done for other areas of the world.

For further information see the ACAS web site

8 March 1998