Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not On His Watch?

This from Rosa Whitaker, former Assistant US Trade Representative to Africa, serving under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and now President and CEO of The Whitaker Group (TWG), a Washington, DC-based consultancy specializing in trade and investment in Africa. As the trade advisor to Congressman Charles Rangel, she was a prime architect of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and continues to play a lead role in advocating for its enhancement and continued relevance. (Hat Tip: The East African)
As the Obama Administration develops its Africa and trade policies, it is critical that it resists pressure from some special interests and members of Congress to support legislation that extends the duty-free access to the US market enjoyed by African nations under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to all Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

While the sentiment is commendable, the result of such a broad-brush trade policy would be disastrous for Africa, particularly those countries that have used AGOA to grow their apparel and textile industries and, in so doing, created more than 300,000 jobs across the continent. In 2008, apparel constituted Kenya’s top export sector to the United States, accounting for $247 million in export earnings.

Last year, the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa represented only 1.2% of the $95 billion US apparel import market. Bangladesh alone captured 3.8% – more than triple the trade of AGOA’s African beneficiary countries combined - and Cambodia accounted for 2.5% of the US apparel market, exporting over twice as much as African exports.

Yes, Bangladesh and Cambodia both suffer the scourge of poverty, but the difference is one of economic trajectory and divergence. Africa continues to be the only region of the world getting poorer and not converging with developed economies. AGOA offers hope and has demonstrated progress in reversing these trends. Apparel has been the entry point into manufacturing for all countries including the US and China. To cut Africa off as it is entering this labor-intensive sector is homicidal for the region.

Extending AGOA benefits to other LDCs, like Bangladesh and Cambodia, would almost certainly be the death knell for Africa’s very promising, but still nascent, apparel sector. Already, the continent’s clothing exporters, faced with the global recession as well as super-competitive, low wage producers in Asia, are under severe stress.

Last year, apparel exports from Africa to the US dropped by over 10%, a decline over three times greater than the contraction in the overall US textile and apparel market. When you consider countries like Bangladesh, whose apparel and textile exports in 2008 grew by 11% to about $3.5 billion; or Cambodia, which exported over $2 billion in apparel and textiles to the US, it is easy to understand the necessity of maintaining AGOA’s special benefits for African countries.

As Paul Collier points out in his "Bottom Billion" book, Bangladesh and Cambodia have created hypercompetitive garment industries and trade preferences are clearly not needed for the "hypercompetitive" but for the most vulnerable and fragile. If one believes trade policies should have a developmental impact, as I do, then trade preferences have to be targeted.

When Asia broke into these markets it did not have to compete with established low-cost producers, because it was the first on the block," Collier writes. "For [Africa] to break into these markets they need temporary protection from Asia."

With a new Administration and a new Congress in Washington, it is a good time to open up the discussion of how the US can develop a trade policy that serves our both economic and development objectives. It is critical that we don't succumb to superficial, feel-good policies that could have devastating consequences for the very people we mean to help.

AGOA was enacted by President Bill Clinton and enhanced three times under President Bush with consistently strong bi-partisan support. This key pillar of US policy towards Africa—which was endorsed by all 48 sub-Saharan African countries and the Africa Union must not be diluted or destroyed under the Administration of America's first African-American President.

I have always believed in and worked for more certainty and clarity in our trade preferences programs. Certainly there is room for improvement in our trade relationship with all LDCs, but as Washington's retail interests try to dilute AGOA's apparel benefits under the banner of lifting all of the world's poor to prosperity – and in the process sacrificing 300,000 African workers and their families – I hope that President Obama will simply reply: "Not on my watch."

Friday, June 26, 2009


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama's No-Fly Policy

Thursday, June 04, 2009

His Excellency President Professor (Witch)Dr Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh

Not content with curing AIDS on Thursdays using herbs and bananas, Gambia's Embarrassment-in-Chief has now set himself another lofty goal: to rid his country of the witches and sorcerers responsible for the mouldy state of the economy. As the East African reports:
To the accompaniment of drums, and directed by men in red tunics bedecked with mirrors and cowrie shells, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Gambians were taken from their villages and driven by bus to secret locations. There they were forced to drink a foul-smelling concoction that made them hallucinate, gave them severe stomach pains, induced some to try digging a hole in a tiled floor, made others try climbing up a wall and in some cases killed them, according to the villagers themselves and Amnesty International.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Slip of the Tongue

Phillip Ochieng, in his own inimitable style, avers in this week's East African:
When we say that the Abaluhya were the autochthons of Lake Victoria’s northern shores, we are saying merely that, as far as our memory goes, they were the first to live there. We are admitting that we do not know the identity of those who may have lived there earlier.
But the point is that the term Nyanza, by which we know that greater area, reveals that a Luhya-speaking people — not the Luo — were its “most recent autochthons.” By the same token, the term Nile must have been coined by the “most recent autochthons” of that valley. 
Only to this extent — only to the extent that the word is theirs — can we call them “Nilotes” (as opposed to the rest of humanity). . . . 

In his book, THE KALENJIN EGYPT ORIGIN LEGEND REVISITED, [Kipkoech arap] Sambu retorts that there is “…one important piece of evidence that should disturb this long-held theory. The ancient [Nilo-Coptic] word for ‘canals’, ‘rivers’... NAIEERU ... appears to be a more convincing origin of the name ‘Nile’…” 

He explains that, among the ancient Nilotes — as among today’s Chinese, Japanese, Mount Kenya Bantus and even some Kalenjin dialects (such as Arror, Sabaoot and Terik) — the liquid consonants l and r were always interchangeable. Thus NAIERO was always apt to come out of the mouth as NAIELO, and vice versa. 

It was the African Danaans (also called Pelasgians, Cadmeians and Libyo-Ethiopians) who took NAIELO to Greece in the fourth millennium BC. Known, too, as Graikoi, “people of Graiai” — the Grey Goddess — they were the autochthons of Greece, the first and only real GREEKS. 
It was the Indo-European Hellenes — invading their country during the second millennium BC — who distorted Naielo into NEILOS or NILOS, which soon passed into Latin as NILUS and into later Western European languages, including French and English, as NILE.
The short version? Some Kaleo shrubbed and we ended up with the River Nile!