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Lurking below an appealing name, "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act," is controversial legislation with a diverse group of opponents.


Opponents include:


  • African American leaders, such as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. John Lewis, TransAfrica President Randall Robinson, Professor Ron Walters and Professor Cornel West;
  • African church, development, labor and other groups including COSATU (South Africa's large federation of unions), COASAD (a coalition of over 150 African sustainable development, farmers', women's and anti-hunger groups and WiLDAF (Women in Law Development in Africa ­ a 210-plus member coalition of African women and women's advocacy groups) and ICFTU-AFRO (the Africa office of the International Conference of Free Trade Unions). The bill was labeled the "African Recolonization Act" in African press reports.(1)
  • U.S. religious, anti-hunger, pro-Africa, environmental, HIV/AIDS and labor groups, spanning such diverse organizations as the Teamsters, the Sierra Club, the United Methodists Board of Church and Society and People With AIDS. In addition, the AFL-CIO has passed a resolution in opposition to the bill.
  • The U.S. textile and apparel industry, on whom the bill relies to create jobs in Africa, because weak transshipment rules would allow Chinese goods to undermine U.S. investments.

This opposition was based on:


  • Singling out of Africa among all U.S. trading partners for imposition of harsh IMF-style domestic social and economic policy changes ­ budget cuts in health and education, privatization through divestiture of public assets, cuts in corporate taxes, etc. ­ as a condition for U.S. trade relations
  • Narrow, short term trade benefits limited mainly to textiles and apparel and containing loopholes promoting transshipment of items made in China and other locales;
  • Lack of binding language on debt relief and aid; and
  • No rules to ensure that goods obtaining new trade benefits are produced in Africa or that Africans are employed by companies reaping the bill's market access benefits, much less that basic internationally recognized labor or environmental rules are followed.
For two years, these opponents of the African Growth and Opportunity Act told Congress that no bill at all would be better than passage of this bill. In 1998, after narrow House passage, H.R. 1434 died in the Senate. But the corporate coalition behind the bill -- many of whose CEOs accompanied the President on his $43 million tour of the African continent(2) -- have dusted off the same version this year (H.R. 434). Despite a major push in the House, support for the measure did not increase; in June 1999, H.R. 434 passed with the same number of votes as its predecessor in 1998, actually losing votes among members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Under a deal arranged by House and Senate GOP leaders in September 1999, the House version of the Arica bill will be combined with the Senate version of CBI NAFTA expansion bill (S. 1387), making the House-passed AGOA (H.R. 434) the operative version of the bill for Senate consideration.

The corporate coalition behind the bill ­ dubbed the "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Coalition, Inc." hopes to ram H.R. 434 through Congress before its contents are understood. Indeed, the records of some of the corporations behind the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act are as troubling as the bill's contents.

Oil Daily: This Is Our Bill!

Oil Daily, a trade publication that supports the corporate Africa bill, describes it as an industry bill promoted by "U.S. oil companies including Chevron Corp, Mobil Corp., Texaco, Inc. Exxon Corp., Conoco, Inc. and Amoco Corp. . . . under the auspices of the Corporate Council on Africa, hiring guns like Chevron-contracted lobbyist Lorenzo Bellamy."(3) While the Clinton Administration claims that the bill is intended to stimulate new investment from small and medium sized U.S. enterprises in Africa, the oil industry press reports that the corporate Africa bill's primary effect will be to create a windfall for oil companies already in Africa.(4)

The "Africa Growth & Opportunity Act Coalition, Inc":

Mobil vs. Mandela
The "African Growth and Opportunity Act Coalition, Inc." is comprised of 45 multinational corporations, lobbying shops and law firms. Many of the lobbying firms represent foreign governments, in addition to U.S. oil companies with operations in Africa.(5)

Chester Crocker, the former State Department official notorious for designing the Reagan Administration's "engagement" policy with South Africa's apartheid regime is prominently listed on Africa Inc's Advisory Board. The phone number on the coalition's fancy letterhead and website rings to the desk of someone in the D.C. lobbying shop of Ford Motor Company.

The Coalition (hereafter "Africa, Inc.") includes some U.S.-based corporations already known for their associations with African dictators, general callousness toward Africa, human rights and environmental violations in other nations, and for disregard for civil rights and poor communities of color in the United States.

Redefining Corporate Citizenship: American International Group (AIG) Tries to Slash U.S. Aid Funding for Zimbabwe

Excerpt of the 1996 letter from AIG to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Attached for your review and consideration is draft language of the amendment we discussed. . . .It would cap AID funding to Zimbabwe in FY 1997 at $10 million, roughly a 50% cut from 1996 expenditures, unless Zimbabwe waives the localization requirement for U.S. insurance companies."
(6) (See below for details.)

American International Group (AIG) insurance conglomerate has a subsidiary in Zimbabwe. Under Zimbabwean law, foreign insurance operators must enter into joint ventures with local firms. When AIG realized that President Robert Mugabe's government would not waive this regulation for AIG, it convinced former Senator Al D'Amato (R-NY) to slash aid funding to Zimbabwe. According to a letter from AIG to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Attached for your review and consideration is draft language of the amendment we discussed. . . .It would cap AID funding to Zimbabwe in FY 1997 at $10 million, roughly a 50% cut from 1996 expenditures, unless Zimbabwe waives the localization requirement for U.S. insurance companies."(7)

Mobil Oil, along with other Africa, Inc. members, was a business partner with Gen. Sani Abacha, the now-deceased Nigerian dictator.(8) More recently, Mobil partnered with the Equatorial Guinea government, which is criticized in the State Department's 1997 Human Rights Report as being a democracy in name only and having a "poor" human rights record.(9) In fact, an Assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary testified to Congress that Washington would oppose IMF-lending to Equatorial Guinea on the basis of the government's human rights record.(10) The Financial Times

Oil Companies Plan to Take Law Into Their Own Hands in Nigeria

Chevron, Mobil Corp., Texaco Inc., and Exxon Corp. ­ all members of the AGOA Coalition ­ have plans to take the law in their own hands in Nigeria. Literally. Years of environmental damage due to improper drilling and unequal distribution of oil revenues have fomented civil unrest in Nigeria's impoverished oil-producing region. Rather than improving their environmental practices and investing in the local communities, American oil companies have hatched a plan to provide funding and training to the Nigerian police.(11) Oil industry frontman David Miller, a board member of the Corporate Council on Africa ­ also an AGOA Coalition member ­ claims that the companies will provide "non-lethal" support only, but oil industry sources confirm that there has been talk about taking a "bigger role."(12) The American oil companies have a lot at stake: The U.S. buys between 40% and 50% of Nigeria's oil, with Chevron and Mobil responsible for nearly half of all production.(13)

Reports concerning Mobil's investment in Equatorial Guinea: "Thus far the tangible benefits for Equatorial Guinea of the oil boom have been few and ill distributed," with "a surge in ethnic tension and violence and most citizens lacking running water and electricity".(14) The New York Times reports that "virtually the only new construction to be found [there] is housing for the President, his relatives and political allies."(15)

Chevron -- also a past business partner of Gen. Abacha, the former dictator of Nigeria -- recently incurred the outrage of the government and population of the Nigerian oil-producing state of Ondo, as reported extensively in the U.S. press. On May 28, 1998, a group of youths demonstrating for environmental justice peacefully occupied a barge anchored to an oil facility owned by Chevron. The youths were protesting Chevron's "continuing destruction of our environment," and the fact that their numerous requests for meetings with Chevron officials had been ignored.(16) Nigerian troops and armed security forces hired by Chevron were flown in by Chevron helicopter to confront the demonstrators.(17) The troops killed two people.(18) Thirty others were reported injured and 33 were arrested.(19) Ondo government officials have expressed dismay that Chevron refuses to assume any responsibility for the attack and refuses to negotiate with the community to compensate the families of the victims and to work to develop a more humane and respectful environmental policy.(20)

Barden International, a car dealership owned by Don Barden of Detroit, has demonstrated how the African "Growth and Opportunity" Act should be renamed the "Corporate Greed and Opportunism Act." After a cultivating a two year relationship with Namibian president Nujoma, Tom Barden was awarded a no-bid $30 million contract with the Namibian government to deliver 824 Chevrolet pickup trucks for government and police use.(21) Barden delivered unusable trucks ­ they are left-hand drive in a country with left-hand traffic. How to address the problem? Accept a contract $15 million contract to convert them to right-hand drive.(22) Each pick up truck will end up costing Namibia $54,000 each -- 25 times the per capita GDP of $2,100 of this poor country.(23) The local police are also unhappy with the trucks because they are unsuitable for Namibia's dirt roads and are fuel-guzzlers in a country with high gas prices. Barden set up a modern industrial park in Windhoek, Namibia and promised hundreds of new jobs.(24) So far, only 31 Namibians have been trained.(25)

Texaco settled a race discrimination suit for $175 million after tapes of Texaco executives making racist comments about African-American employees were leaked to the public.(26)

Camac Holdings, another Africa, Inc. member, was documented over three years in the Times-Picayune for its neglect of a crumbling amusement park in a poor African-American section of East New Orleans. Rather than develop the property as planned to reinvigorate the economically depressed neighborhood, Camac ­ in an act labeled "a sham" by New Orleans officials(27) ­ withheld years of property taxes and finally "donated" the property to a city agency while keeping the lion's share of $750,000 in back taxes owed and receiving a $2.5 million tax write-off for the "donation."(28)

Seaboard Corporation, an agribusiness giant and Africa, Inc. member, has been called by Time Magazine a "master at milking government for welfare."(29) From 1990 to 1997 Seaboard received at least $150 million in taxpayer money, in addition to its annual revenues of $1.8 billion.(30) In one case, the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota gave Seaboard a $2.9 million low-interest loan and special deals on paving employee parking lots and on its sewer bill when Seaboard reopened a pork-processing plant that had once been the town's largest employer.(31) It lowered the wages of workers by $4,500 per year and began to import workers from Mexico and Central America to work at the plant.(32) Workers were paid so poorly that they were forced on to welfare.(33) It also created a sludge crisis for the city's waste treatment plant, refusing to upgrade its own sewage treatment facility.(34) Seaboard phased out the plant four years later when it found a better corporate welfare package, leaving the city of Albert Lea with an abandoned slaughterhouse, a large debt, and higher utility bills.(35) This is typical of the way Seaboard uses public funds from state, local, and federal governments to maximize its own gains, often at the expense of those providing the funding.(36) Indeed, its corporate welfare extends to its operations in Africa ­ it received $11.2 million in Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance for its wheat and corn mills in Mozambique.(37)

Demonstrating the Need for Labor, Environmental and Human Rights Safeguards in Trade Agreements...

"Some opponents of the [Clinton-Crane] bill fear that its trade provisions will result in short-term economic growth without corresponding economic development. A related concern is that the bill will help to enrich American and other foreign investors at the expense of Africans. Given the largely unhappy history of foreign investment in Africa, these are legitimate concerns."

The Africa-America Institute(38)
An examination of the records of some Africa, Inc. members operating in Africa and other developing nations justifies the concerns raised about whose interests the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act would serve. Proponents of the bill suggest that unfettered foreign corporate access to African oil and mineral wealth will lead to democracy and improved environmental and labor standards in the developing world. Yet the actual records of prominent Africa, Inc. members overseas demonstrates that without meaningful safeguards (which are noticeably absent from the corporate-promoted AGOA) many foreign investors have in practice proven more likely to shirk standards than observe them, and have chosen to prop up dictators rather than influence them. Some examples:

Chevron provided the former military dictatorship of Nigeria with 1/5th of its oil revenues.(39) After two local protestors of Chevron were shot to death by Nigerian troops and security forces hired by the company,(40) Chevron spokesman claimed that "it was not Chevron's position to criticize the operation of any government with which the corporation was involved."(41) Outside of Africa, Chevron partnered with the Indonesian government in East Timor when the government was illegally occupying the country.(42)

Africa Inc. member Caterpillar, which, despite the 12-year Libyan trade embargo for sponsoring terrorism, has, according to sources quoted in the New York Times, provided 400 pieces of earthmoving equipment to construct an elaborate underground military tunnel system in Libya.(43)

Occidental Petroleum, another Africa Inc. member, applied for and obtained a waiver in 1997 to form a partnership with the terrorist-sponsoring Sudanese government, despite a U.S. embargo and the government's record of slaughtering or relocating over 1,000,000 non-Islamic Africans.(44)

Africa Inc. member General Electric was documented to force women in its Mexican maquiladoras to submit to pregnancy tests as a condition of employment and was the first company to be investigated under NAFTA's labor side pact for labor violations.(45)

Africa Inc. member Enron has been targeted by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch following attacks on peaceful protesters at a construction site for an Enron joint venture electricity plant in Dhabol, India.(46) Amnesty has asked the company to provide human rights sensitivity training to its security forces following assaults on the local villagers who protested environmental destruction caused by Enron. When completed, the villagers will pay twice as much for energy than they currently pay, while Enron will enjoy a 31-52 percent rate of return against a 16 percent norm.(47)

Africa Inc. member Kmart's labor practices in Nicaragua have been documented by the National Labor Committee: sexual harassment; forced overtime, shifts of 12 hours or longer, six days a week; starvation wages as low as 10 to 15 cents an hour; body searches; total denial of the right to meet or organize; workers hit to make them work faster.(48) The U.S. Labor Department recently fined Kmart for violating U.S. child labor laws, one year after the company adopted a "Teen Workers' Bill of Rights."(49) Kmart has also effectively subsidized the Chinese military by importing raincoats from a company owned by the Chinese People's Liberation Army.(50)

Clients of Some Africa, Inc. Lobby Shops:

Foreign Dictators and Private Military Corporations
Among Africa, Inc.'s members are lobbyists with a history of representing authoritarian foreign governments and oil companies and lobbying against human rights sanctions and other efforts to promote democracy. Lobbying firms founded by former foreign policy officials play a prominent role in Africa, Inc. Review of some of the lobbyists foreign agent registrations and other records also heightens concerns that the Lugar-Crane bill has been crafted to further the narrow economic interests of oil companies and current African regimes, rather than to advance a viable model for economic development or advance the cause of democracy or human rights in Africa.

Representing Dictators:
The lobbying firm Cohen and Woods International was founded by James Woods, a Reagan-era Department of Defense official and Herman Cohen, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Reagan. By his own admission Cohen was an "advisor" to Zaire's ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Soko ­ one of the most vicious and corrupt in Africa's history. (51) The DC-based lobbying firm Holland & Knight received almost $70,000 in the beginning of 1998 for representing the government of the Republic of Senegal,(52) one of Africa's more persistent human and labor rights violators. Amnesty International's Annual Report covering 1998 mentions the Senegalese army as responsible for torture, ill-treatment, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions, as well as arbitrary detention of labor unionists and political opposition leaders.(53) Foley, Hoag, and Eliot, also in DC, represented Guyana and Uganda, both countries in which basic principles of the rule of law are consistently ignored.(54) Indeed, on September 28, 1999, President Museveni of Uganda ordered the police to summarily arrest homosexuals, stating that Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not necessarily apply to Africa.(55)

Mercenary Forces to "Protect Commerce:" In addition, Cohen and Woods advises the private U.S.-based Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a mercenary outfit providing "training, equipping, force design and management, professional development, organizational and operational assistance [and] quick reaction military contractual support" to those who can afford it.(56) In regard to MPRI, James Woods states: "If the international community cannot get its act together and help these countries keep themselves together and protect commerce. . . you're going to see more and more" examples of private contractors doing the job.(57)

Stifling Human Rights Enforcement: Another Africa Inc. lobbying firm, C/R International, was founded by two Clinton Administration State Department officials. One of C/R's clients was Base Oil, which has been identified in the oil press as a front corporation for one of the sons of the now deceased Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.(58) C/R International was paid $390,000 by Base in 1996 for meeting with U.S. government officials to ward off economic sanctions against the Nigerian dictatorship.(59)

Ambassador David Miller of the Corporate Council for Africa, who also sits on Africa Inc's advisory board, lobbied on behalf of Chevron against economic sanctions for Nigeria. In his June 25, 1998 Congressional testimony on the prospects of democracy in Nigeria, he claimed that "oil companies there [Nigeria] operate to the same standards as here in the United States" and that claims of the contrary were "misrepresentations." (60) Miller was responding to statements by a member of Congress about the lurid history of "environmental racism" by oil companies operating in Nigeria reported in the Wall Street Journal and documented by the World Bank.(61)

Daniel O'Flaherty of the U.S.-South Africa Business Council is another advisory board member of Africa Inc. He is also Vice President of the National Foreign Trade Council, the parent group of USA*Engage. USA*Engage is a coalition of businesses opposed to using economic sanctions to promote human rights. The group is pressing a constitutional challenge against Massachusetts' selective-purchasing law on Burma. Many Africa, Inc. members are also members of USA*Engage, whose sole purpose is to block sanctions efforts ­ patterned on those that succeeded in South Africa ­ to hold dictators and the businesses who fund them accountable to human rights standards.


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***Notes***

1. Kintu, Remigius, President of Uganda Democratic Coalition, Inc. Recolonization of Africa Bill in U.S. Congress, April 8, 1998.

2. The following CEO's of members of the "Africa Growth & Opportunity Act Coalition, Inc." accompanied the President on his March 1998 tour of Africa: Kase Lewall, CEO of CAMAC, Ernest Micek of Cargill, and Maurice Templesman, the diamondier

3. Music, Kimberly. "Archer to Focus Efforts on Africa Trade," Oil Daily 1/21/98.

4. Music, Kimberly. "Oil Industry Pushes Africa Investment Bill," Oil Daily 10/28/97.

5. Members representing foreign governments include Anthony Carroll, Esq., Foley, Hoag and Eliot, Cohen and Woods International, and others. Information on lobbyists was retrieved from the Foreign Agents Registration Act database.

6. Kister, William and Murray Waas, "How Al D'Amato Threatened African AIDS funding to Help a Big Campaign Contributor," Salon Magazine, October 29, 1998.

7. Kister, William and Murray Waas, "How Al D'Amato Threatened African AIDS funding to Help a Big Campaign Contributor," Salon Magazine, October 29, 1998.

8. For instance, see the 10-K filings of Mobil and Chevron. Texaco's filings also indicate drilling activity in Nigeria. Also see November 1996 issue of Oil and Gas Newsletter for information on Africa, Inc. member Camac's offshore holdings in Nigeria. And according to the Energy Report, Amoco also operates in Nigeria.

9. U.S. State Department, 1997 Human Rights Report: Equatorial Guinea, p. 1.

10. Priest, Dana. "Free of Oversight, U.S. Military Trains Foreign Troops," The Washington Post, July 12, 1998.

11. Atiya Hussain, "U.S. Companies Consider Funding Police in Nigeria," National Post, Aug. 30, 1999.

12. David C. Miller, Testimony to the Africa Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee on "Nigeria: On the Democratic Path?" August 3, 1999.

13. Atiya Hussain, "U.S. Companies Consider Funding Police in Nigeria," National Post, Aug. 30, 1999.

14. Plowden, Hugo."Equatorial Guinea: New Kid Rising on a Tide of Oil," Financial Times, 6/ 9/98, p. 8.

15. French, Howard W. "Competition Heats Up for West Africa's Oil Wealth," The New York Times, March 7, 1998.

16. "Chevron, Oil Communities Fail to Agree on Compensation," The Punch (Lagos, Nigeria), July 16, 1998 and "Chevron's Commando Raid Kills Peaceful Protestors," Environmental Testimony #5, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, July 10, 1998.

17. Knight, Danielle, "Rights -- Nigeria: Oil Giant had Role in Killings," Inter Press Service, 10/2/98.

18. Ibid.

19. "Chevron, Oil Communities Fail to Agree on Compensation," The Punch (Lagos, Nigeria), July 16, 1998 and "Chevron's Commando Raid Kills Peaceful Protestors," Environmental Testimony #5, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, July 10, 1998.

20. Ibid.

21. Pranay Gupte, "Detroit's Gift to Nambia," Forbes, October 19, 1998.

22. Ibid.

23. World Bank, World Development Indicators 1999, p. 159.

24. Ibid.

25. Gupte, Pranay. "Detroit's Gift to Namibia," Forbes, October 19, 1998.

26. "Texaco Meeting is Hit by Protests," The New York Times, May 14, 1997.

27. The Times Picayune, 9/11/95.

28. "Levee Board Sees Way Out of Deal on Lincoln Beach," The Times Picayune, June 16, 1998.

29. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, "The Empire of the Pigs: A Little-Known Company Is a Master at Milking Governments for Welfare," Time Magazine, November 30, 1998.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, 1997 Annual Report, p. 4.

38. The Africa-America Institute, Position Paper on the Africa Trade Bill, 1998.

39. Knight, Danielle, "Rights -- Nigeria: Oil Giant had Role in Killings," Inter Press Service, 10/2/98.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Chevron operates under the Timor Gap Treaty which international legal scholars consider "null and void under international law" as it gives Chevron rights to property stolen from the East Timorese (Udin, Jeffrey. "The Profits of Genocide: Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor," Z Magazine, May 1996, pp. 19-25 quoting the international legal scholar Roger S. Clark, Rutgers Law School on the legitimacy of the Timor Gap Treaty.)

43. Bonner, Raymond. "Libya's Vast Desert Pipeline Could be Conduit for Troops," The New York Times, 12/ 2/97.

44. Heilbrunn, Jacob. "The Sanctions Sell Out: The corporate takeover of foreign policy," The New Republic, May 25, 1998.

45. Laura Eggerton, "Mexico faces double protest over firms' pregnancy tests, NAFTA violations, groups contend," The Arizona Republic, 11/9/97.

46. "Heavy-handed Policing Used to Suppress Protests Against Venture by Three Multinationals," Amnesty International, 7/17/97; The Enron Corporation: Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Violations, January 1999.

47. "Adverse Enron Judgment Blow to Energy Independence," Corporate Watch, May 22, 1997.

48. National Labor Committee, "Action Alert: NLC and Hard Copy Expose Sweatshops in Nicaragua," November 25, 1997.

49. "Kmart Fined for Child Labor Violations," News and Record, June 6, 1998.

50. Culley, Kathryn. "How China's Army Stocked American Shelves," The Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 1998.

51. Testimony to the House of Representatives on Democracy in Africa, 4/17/96.

52. U.S. Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit, "Report for First Half of 1998," 1998.

53. Amnesty International Annual Report 1999, London: Amnesty International (1999).

54. Ibid.

55. "Uganda Homosexuals Ordered Arrested," Associated Press, September 29, 1999.

56. MPRI brochure. For more information, consult its website: http://www.mpri.com

57. US News and World Report. "Private US Companies Train Armies Around the World," February 8, 1997

58. Music, Kimberly. "Foreign Oil Producers pay lobbying firms big money to influence U.S. lawmakers," The Oil Daily, July 9, 1997.

59. Ibid.

60. House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, Hearing on Democracy in Nigeria, June 25, 1998. Reported by Essential Information.

61. Brooks, Geraldine. "Sick Alliances: Shell's Nigerian Fields Produce Few Benefits for Regions's Villagers." The Wall Street Journal, Friday, May 6, 1994. According to the World Bank Environmental Division, the amount of petroleum expelled by the Shell Oil company alone into Nigerian land and water is 50 times more than would be allowed in the U.S. or Europe (World Bank Industry and Energy Operations Division, West Central Africa Division, Defining an Environmental Development Strategy for the Niger Delta, May 1995, Volume I, p. 49 and Volume II, pp. 94, 96-96.)

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