By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow
Little did we know that when the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA – went into law to support increased free trade between the African continent and the United States that many other nations would profit from it. The fact is that the biggest beneficiary of AGOA is China.
AGOA is a virtual tool for trade enhancement of China and the economic exploitation of our Mother Africa. Chinese entrepreneurs are pimping America and Africa with their blatant hustles that happen right before our eyes. Let’s look at some of the horrors we have witnessed in our travels to the Motherland.
One elaborate scheme took place in Botswana. A hustler from China came to the nation and convinced a local Botswanan businessperson to go into the textile business. He helped organize a relationship between the local businessperson and a bank in China. The bank provided lending capital for the Botswanan to purchase machinery to manufacture sports apparel that would be shipped to the United States under the AGOA program. The brand would be the popular Badger Sportswear. That caught our interest as Harry is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, whose fight name is the Badgers.
They set up the factory and began making the apparel at a rapid rate. Before you knew it, they had over $500,000 worth of apparel to ship to the United States. The destination would be Charlotte, North Carolina. The poor Bot- swana victim did not realize that nothing in North Carolina is called Badger. North Carolina is Tarheel country!
They packed up the shipment and flew it to Charlotte for pick-up and delivery. Then they would receive their lump sum payment which approached nearly a million dollars by the time it was ready for market. The shipment arrived but there was no one to receive it.
This was the hustle! It would sit in the Charlotte airport until it was declared unclaimed freight. Thus, it went up for auction to the highest bidder (pennies on the dollar). The mysterious bidder took off with the product and who knows where he went to sell his new shipload of product. The rookie manufacturer in Bots-
wana would receive no funds for the product he produced. He would go into bankruptcy and the Chinese bank would come and repossess the machinery and ship it back to China.
The victim was heartbroken after realizing he was used as a “sucker.” He asked us to intervene but there was nothing we could do. We approached the Botswa- nan ambassador’s office in the United States, and they had no interest in helping their citizens. These types of hustles happen in Africa all the time.
Something that is more popular than textiles when it comes to fraud and abuse of the AGOA program is coal production. The environmental movement is quite active in its attempts to stop the mining and production of coal within the United States. The more successful it becomes the more China mines new coal in Africa to offset the reduction of coal production in the United States.
China is currently on its way to establishing over 700 new coal mines in Africa. One hundred percent of that new coal is destined for the United States – duty free under AGOA. Brazenly, China refuses to use the newest technology in its mining techniques. Its low-tech methods are extremely harmful to our environment, but no one seems to care about the environment in Africa, even though the whole world is affected.
China and coal aren’t the only examples of AGOA abuse.
Let’s look at the nation of Germany and its production of the expensive automobile – the BMW brand. Germany built a BMW assembly plant in South Africa for the sole purpose of shipping the finished product to the United States duty free under the AGOA program. Where is our outrage!!
Here’s a “Doozie” for you. The island nation of Mauritius sits in the Indian Ocean about a thousand miles from the coast of East Africa. Lobbyists for the nation convinced members of our Congressional Black Caucus to allow Mauritius membership into the AGOA program. Thus, interests from India are shipping finished products to the United States via the Port of Mauritius duty free!
Why do we let them get away with this abuse? We could take you to Ghana and show you tomatoes coming in by shiploads from China. From there a company using Chinese equipment transforms the tomatoes into cans of tomato paste to be sold to U. S. grocery stores under the AGOA program. Green beans and other items are hustled in the same manner. Why don’t they farm these products in Africa instead of being exploited by China?
The AGOA program is useless to the continent of Africa. China just loves it.
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder, Executive Vice President of the Chamber. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Emails: [email protected]; kdebow@national bcc.org.