Opinion: AGOA Is Racist And A Form Of Colonial Domination

By Dana Sanchez Published: June 17, 2016, 11:25 am
AGOA Is RacistPhoto: Mark Lorch/flickr/mgafrica.com

The renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a perfect example of subliminal racism and colonial domination, says Kevin Lovell in an opinion piece in IndependentOnline.

U.S. poultry producers were stopped from dumping their chicken waste in South Africa for 17 years. Anti-dumping duties were never challenged in court or at the World Trade Organisation, Lovell said.

Instead, by threatening AGOA’s renewal, South Africa was effectively blackmailed into accepting inferior or unwanted chicken products.

AGOA isn’t just about chicken and it was never meant as a one-way deal, the U.S. State Department says. Since its inception, AGOA has helped to increase two-way trade with the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa.

AGOA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in  2000 to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, according to the U.S. Department of Trade. At the center of AGOA are trade preferences that allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries — there are 41 of them — to enter the U.S. market duty-free.

African countries are eligible for AGOA benefits by meeting certain criteria, including progress toward a market-based economy, rule of law, reducing poverty, protecting worker rights, and combating corruption.

The U.S. helps African governments and businesses make the most of AGOA and diversify their exports to the U.S.

Evodia Motsepe of Mega Food Supplies in South Africa is one of those beneficiaries.

Earlier this year, South Africa secured continued duty-free access to the U.S. market after long negotiations over its reluctance to allow U.S. chicken exports into the country.

As part of the new deal, 65,000 tons of U.S. chicken will enter the South African market annually. Mega Food Supplies will import 4,100 tons.

Motsepe says she is South Africa’s first female black importer of chicken. “It has been a big game changer for me,” she told ENCA. “It was not easy breaking into this male-dominated industry.”

As part of a U.S.-backed, black entrepreneurship program, Motsepe will be trained on how to import, including international trade fundamentals such as sourcing logistics, marketing and procurement, said Sol Motsepe, CEO of Mega Food Supplies.

The company will supply government departments of correctional services, health and education as well as restaurants, mining companies and wholesalers.

Just another form of colonial domination, says Lovell.

Just as European colonial powers used force to control African countries and gain market access, developing countries today are still targeted by economically powerful countries, according to Lovell. Countries like the U.S. use massive economies of scale, subsidies, sector support and financial muscle to capture lucrative markets for themselves.

This new colonialism inhibits growth of local production, flooding markets with goods dumped at prices far below local production costs, he said. Once a local industry is decimated, import prices begin to rise. South Africa’s poultry industry is the next target – and imports are the weapon, he said in IOL:

No country of any size has ever imported itself to sustained economic growth. The story sold by importers is a con. There is no need to import, no good reason and no benefit to anyone beyond a handful of distributors. There is no compelling reason for poultry imports other than greed.

Imports offer no benefit for local processing or production, where most of the industry’s 130,000 jobs are created. Importers are job stealers, while local producers are job creators. Currently, one big company is closing a (slaughterhouse) in the North West Province. A medium-size producer that operated for 40 years is shutting up shop, while others struggling to pay suppliers are likely to fold soon. Even big producers are so stressed they are running out of external storage space to store production.

Imports offer no cost benefit to local consumers. Although landed at ridiculously low dumped prices, importers admit imported chicken is actually sold for more than local chicken. There is no cheap chicken for consumers, only fat margins for people selling imported products to poor people.

(South Africa’s) world-class business model makes us more competitive in poultry meat production than the E.U. If our grain farmers were supported as in other countries, we would be as cost efficient as the U.S. and Brazil. We are already at least as good, if not better than they are at turning animal feed into food for people.

Our ability to realize the full value of chicken is maximized because we sell every piece of the chicken to our consumers, rather than just the white – or breast – meat preferred in the U.S. and Europe, whose subliminal racism is exemplified by exporting the waste they don’t consume, transferring the effects of their dietary preference to the poor.

In South Africa’s history, import volumes have never been this high. In a flat economy with declining disposable incomes, why are foreign waste products allowed to destroy our industry, facilitating a huge collapse in the biggest part of South African agriculture?

Imports are bad for our economic health, food safety and security. If the poultry industry is to survive, let alone fulfill its potential for enterprise development and job creation, imports must be stopped now.


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