Renew African Growth Act, but Protect Worker Rights

As the Senate takes up reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), passed in 2000, the bill should include provisions strengthening worker rights, human rights and mandating resource transparency, says Cathy Feingold, director of the AFL-CIO International Department.

Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy last week, Feingold said that the AFL-CIO “strongly supports reauthorization of AGOA,” but it must be strengthened by including provisions to abolish the worst forms of child labor. AGOA also should include a democracy clause that allows trade benefits be limited, suspended or withdrawn when violated, she said, “because “workers are unlikely to freely exercise their rights under a government that fails to respect their political rights.”

(Read Feingold’s full testimony.)

During the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the AFL-CIO hosted a delegation of 38 union leaders and worker rights advocates from sub-Saharan Africa who support AGOA’s reauthorization but argued for improving it.

As the report by the AFL-CIO and Solidarity Center points out, in the 15 years AGOA has been in effect, it has increased exports from sub-Saharan Africa but has not spurred broader development or fostered a robust and equitable economic system.

Following the Summit, the AFL-CIO and the International Trade Union Confederation’s Africa Regional Office issued a joint partnership statement focused on inclusive economic growth, stating that workers must benefit from job creation and access to financial stability, education, health care and social protection.