Late last week the House of Representatives passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act by a large majority. Supporters of the legislation, which includes a powerful consortium of corporations such as Chevron, Exxon, K-Mart, Ford and Enron, to name just a few, say the Act will stimulate market-led investment, economic growth and raise the living standards in some of the world’s poorest countries. But opponents of the Act including major labor unions such as the AFL-CIO, church organizations, and anti-globalization activists have been carrying out a consistent grass roots effort against the legislation which is expected to hit the Senate this week.
These opponents say the Act, which they are calling NAFTA for Africa, undermines African interests in sovereign, equitable development in order to promote U.S. corporate control of African economics and natural resources.
When President Clinton visited South Africa, then-president Nelson Mandella said legislation like this is for the benefit of multinational corporations and not Africa.
Well, last week, as the vote was taking place in Congress, eight activists from ACT-UP were arrested after they caused the vote to come to a standstill for ten minutes. The activists chained themselves to a balcony chanting “Africa Is Not for Sale, AIDS drugs Now!” They were specifically protesting the elimination in the act of the provisions on access to HIV/AIDS medication among other things.
- Paul Davis, is an activist with ACT-UP Philadelphia and was one of eight people arrested in Congress last week protesting the legislation.