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Can US help African states without strings attached?

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Added 3rd April 2018 10:36 AM

It is absurd to note that the US still continues to offer foreign aid to African states with strings attached; it is a case of giving with one hand and taking it away with the other

Peterogwangusukcountymp 703x422

It is absurd to note that the US still continues to offer foreign aid to African states with strings attached; it is a case of giving with one hand and taking it away with the other

AGOA | US

By Peter Ogwang

It is sickening to read that the US and President Donald Trump have agreed to suspend Rwanda from enjoying American market under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

This decision to suspend Rwanda from enjoying economic benefits in the US market was reportedly prompted by Kigali’s plan to impose a ban on imports of used clothing popularly known as “Mivumba’ in Uganda over a three-year period beginning 2019. The decision was agreed upon by all regional Heads of States in 2016 including Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

A statement from the US as published in the media states that Trump has “determined that Rwanda is not making sufficient progress toward the elimination of barriers to the US trade and investment. Therefore, it is out of compliance with eligibility requirements of AGOA. As a result, the US and Trump have agreed to suspend duty-free treatment for all AGOA-eligible apparel products from Rwanda in 60 days if Kigali does not rescind its policy.”

This move from the US should be condemned to its last drop because it is meant to bully African states, threaten sovereignty and economically handicap countries that benefit from their conditional foreign aid.

Whereas I appreciate that the US has injected millions of dollars in form of economic assistance fund to African states, including Uganda to promote economic and political stability, her move to suspend Rwanda from American market is a selfish move by Trump and his government. This is meant to protect US used clothing industry, thus suffocating Rwanda’s move to transform its textile industry as per their 2017-2019 action plan.

In fact, the East African Newspaper says that if Rwanda implemented its action plan then its textile industry alone could create over 25,000 jobs, increase the exports to $43m and decrease the imports of these products to $33m by 2019 from $124m in 2015. Isn’t this an economic strategy that could benefit any developing country like Uganda or Rwanda or Kenya without threats from the US that is only interested in boasting her second-hand clothing industry?

It is absurd to note that the US still continues to offer foreign aid to African states with strings attached; it is a case of giving with one hand and taking it away with the other.

Imagine if Uganda offered the same type of aid to neighbouring countries of South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and others that have been gutted by political unrest.

It is, therefore, prudent for the US government to borrow a leaf from Uganda’s government that has consistently offered strings-free military support to neighbouring countries. Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni believes in the spirit of Pan-Africanism characterised by protection of sovereignty, mutual respect and solidarity without boundaries or attachments.

It is not once or twice that the US has threatened to withdraw foreign aid to Uganda and I am certain these threats are not about to end. Do you remember the foreign aid cut threats from the US after we passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2016? In fact, the 2017/2018  US budget document indicates that Uganda suffered $67.8m in foreign aid cut.

Other countries that suffered a huge aid cut in this FY 2017/18 include Rwanda ($50.7m), Kenya ($11.78m), Burundi ($9.4m), South Sudan ($10.6m) while Ethiopia suffered the highest cut of $132.1m.

The US has made it a tendency to threaten African countries with foreign aid cuts for not dancing to their tunes. It is also worth noting that the US ‘helping hand’ is subjective in that not any country could receive her aid. The US aid is only a priority to countries where Americans have strategic interests. It is not a surprise that African states with a rich mineral base such as diamonds, uranium deposits, rare metals, and fossil fuels among others, have been a major target by the US who continue to consolidate their security interests. Such mineral-rich countries include; Namibia (Uranium), DR Congo (Diamond), Niger (Gold), Zambia (Copper) among others.

Therefore, we should not be intimidated by the US and its unfair policies in the name of attracting foreign aid. Together, African states can set a trend to boast their investment prowess without any foreign influence.

 The writer is Usuk County MP and parliamentary commissioner

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