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). The 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, a decision that was agreed upon by all regional heads of States in 2016, including Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
A statement from US as published in the media states that Trump has “determined that Rwanda is not making sufficient progress toward the elimination of barriers to US trade and investment, therefore, is out of compliance with eligibility requirements of AGOA. As a result, 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 by 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 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 intended 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 if Rwanda implements its action plan, then its textile industry alone could create more than 25,000 jobs, increase the exports to $43 million and decrease the imports of these products to $33 million by 2019 from $124 million in 2015. Isn’t this an economic strategy that could benefit any developing country like Uganda, Rwanda or Kenya without threats from US that is only interested in boasting her second-hand clothes industry?
It is absurd to note that the US 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 Uganda offering the same type of aid to her neighbours South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and others that have been gutted by political unrest, what would happen?
It is, therefore, prudent for the US government to borrow a leaf from Uganda government that has consistently offered strings-free military support to neighbouring countries. Uganda under President 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 ($50.7), Kenya ($11.78), 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 its tunes. It is also worth noting that the US ‘helping hand’ is very subjective in that not any country could receive her aid. US aid is only a priority to countries where Americans have strategic interests.
It is not a surprise that African states with rich mineral base such as diamonds, uranium deposits, rare metals, and fossil fuels, among others, have been a major target of 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 and start boasting of their investment prowess without any foreign influence.
Mr Ogwang is the MP for Usuk County and Parliamentary Commissioner.