An Oct. 28 op-ed column by Roger Wilkins and William Jackson praised the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which has now passed both houses. The writers were correct that Africa's debt burden is an impediment to development and that a good U.S. foreign aid package must help create a sound trade environment in Africa.

However, the eligibility requirements the act imposes as a condition of trade would wreak havoc on poor Africans. A provision also mandates that foreign investors be given unimpeded access to land and resources by placing them on a legal par with African nationals. This would open the door to U.S. businesses and multinational corporations' gobbling up the continent.

Provisions related to intellectual property rights have ominous implications for the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors. The Senate version of the bill requires that African apparels use U.S. cloth and thread to obtain duty-free status. This could be a blueprint for African sweatshop labor.

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act needs a thorough overhaul before it can offer the broad-based benefits that will foster a genuine partnership between Africa and the United States.


Executive Director

Africa Faith and Justice Network