U.S. Trade Bill for Africa Falls Short

Special to the NNPA from the GIN | 4/24/2010, 11:27 a.m.

A U.S. bill touted for its trade benefits to African countries has been a mixed bag at best and a bust at worst. The African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), now 10 years old, expanded some countries€ economies like a balloon, bringing the largest manufacturing investments of any single time and tens of thousands of jobs, only to later deflate when the economy turned sour.

Agoa offers duty-free access into the US market for African manufactured exports but the treaty has enticed mostly Asian-owned textile firms to invest in countries like Lesotho, Madagascar and Swaziland.

"The success of Agoa is mixed,€ Felicia Dlamini, a developmental economist, said in a press interview. €Yes, it brought jobs but the quality of the jobs left something to be desired. Workers were not trained or promoted to management positions. Tax revenues did not materialize. The short-term benefits (of Agoa) were good but the long-term benefits are questionable."

Meanwhile, Swazi labor minister, Magobetane Mamba, after a recent tour of textile plants, lamented practices he observed that were in apparent violation of the country€s industrial laws with workers exposed to danger or even death by lacking protective clothing or masks. He said he expected answers on this apparent exploitation.