The major success story from the Diaspora to Africa so far for this century is the successful campaign for a fair trade for Africa bill, which is currently called the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. In many ways, the original Africa trade bill is a Pan-African success story with the great blessings of President Robert Mugabe. However, the AGOA does not meet the “great Zimbabwe trust” and is quickly becoming a “re-colonization bill.”

Ambassador Nelson Ndirangu recently warned, “The United States, for example, threatened African countries that it would terminate the preferential access provided under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act programme.”

The journey to the AGOA started on the eve of 21st century, with African leaders calling for sustainable economic development to advance hard-won political “freedom.” It was also a response by the European Union and the United States to fears that if Africa continues to pivot eastward under a union government, the result would eventually be the economic collapse of Europe and the United States. Given this scenario, the U.S. passed the AGOA, giving Africa some incentives for duty-free trade in textiles. This trade agreement was the U.S. insurance package that a powerful Africa would not completely cut ties with America as it rose from its post-colonial devastated economy into a United States of Africa, forged by the late President Moumar Khaddafi. Certainly, by 2007 the EU and U.S. economies collapsed because of the newly competitive markets in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, now called the BRICS group. 

Despite clear warning signs, African leadership failed to pull itself together as a union government, and so within the past 10 years the EU and U.S. imperialist agenda was adjusted from a subtle Clintonian competition for Africa’s enormous market to the blatant Bush-Obama plan for the militarization of Africa. It was the indecisive and weak leadership of Africa combined with the great recession of Europe that finally caused Europe to literally “bum-rush” Africa for resources to stabilize their economies.

African leaders’ failure to create a Pan-Africa led to the destruction of Libya in 2011 and now the weakening of the AGOA as an incentive for Africa. Since 2011, the AGOA as an incentive for meaningful and fair trade relations with Africa has been replaced with a greater focus by the EU and U.S. to use military means to dominate Africa. AFRICOM’s war on terror has replaced the AGOA as the main incentive for doing business with Africa. 

Indeed, Africa’s problem was increased in 2008, when African leaders were bamboozled by the election of a Black U.S. president. The African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity) was deceived and refocused its agenda from a fast-track approach to a union government to embracing the Black U.S. president’s agenda that was mainly fronting for imperialism. With the leaders of Africa lowering their vigilance for security in a union, Africa was viciously attacked by the EU and U.S. and forced to submit to a regionally divided system with a new agenda that benefited their European attackers. 

This is the current state of Africa as Congress discusses renewing the AGOA. Africa has been forced to surrender itself in a divided system of regional blocks without the power to negotiate the best trade agreement for its people.

The AGOA’s significance to Africa was highlighted in the late 1990s as one key measure to begin promoting Africa’s economic power to protect its new political “independence.” As African leaders explored, and then implored the African Diaspora to help strengthen Africa economically, the first major model came from Africans in the Black South of the U.S., as the AGOA, in 2000.

The main obstacles to this Africa trade bill were those in the U.S. Congress, such as Sen. Trent Lott. Thus, our success was dependent on Africans in the Deep South. For them, this effort was akin to Garvey’s vision for African people to engage in global commerce for the industrial advancement of Africa. The vision of Garvey was strongly influenced by one of Africa’s great sons, Booker T. Washington of the Black South, whose self-reliance economic plan inspired Garvey’s African nationalism and is still fundamental to Black people in the South.  

In the recent U.S.-Africa Summit in 2014, when AU leaders came to the U.S., they prioritized lobbying the U.S. government and corporations for the extension of the AGOA without consulting or giving any respect to Africans who first made the passage of the bill possible. These same Africans in the South were the ones who were dragged from Africa into the worst of the wretched bowels of the Southern plantations and yet gave Africa the first decent model for global trade. The AU leaders instead submitted to President Barack Obama to renew the AGOA as a “slave bill.” Obama himself, though highly proficient in the U.S. Constitution, is clueless to the deep history and the very “soul” of Black people’s struggle.

As African leaders in the AU and the Diaspora continue pressing to renew the AGOA, they must know, respect and act in accordance to the importance of Zimbabwe and Pan- Africanism in helping to forge ahead for a “fair” trade bill for Africa. Let’s be clear, though, in stating that although Nigeria benefits the most from the AGOA, Nigeria was not there when we were campaigning for this trade bill. Nigeria, at this particular time in history, was an affront to civilization as that country reeled from political chaos. Nigerians were also engaged in an unprecedented bribery scandal and corruption, targeted at the very core of Black leadership in the U.S., giving millions of dollars to them and other Americans to support their horrible leader, Abacha “the Butcher.” South Africa also benefitted greatly, but Africans in South Africa were still attempting to sort its post-apartheid leadership. It was mainly the ambassadors from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Benin and others who helped to spearhead the work for the bill with Zimbabwe.

It was Zimbabwe’s engagement that sent the clearest and sincerest message of the bill’s significance to Africa. We were convinced with the “great Zimbabwe trust” that we were involved in the right fight for Africans. Zimbabwe sealed the deal for the Diaspora to work for the first trade bill with the U.S., especially for Africans in the Diaspora to revive Garvey’s vision to conduct trade with Africa. It is only obvious that Africans in the world continue to have a deeper trust for African nations such as Zimbabwe because of their principled work for African people. Zimbabwe has even continued this principled work, although profiled and targeted by EU and U.S. “disaster capitalism.”

With this historical overview, we need to send a very clear message to the AU and the Black leaders that “No UGA, No AGOA.” Unless we create a Union Government of Africa, this new 2015 AGOA bill will become a “slave deal” and another bad Africa legacy for Obama, which will only expedite the re-colonization of Africa. Worse, this bill will be given to and then driven by the Republicans who are now controlling Congress.

Our work is especially critical, with more ominous signs of turbulence coming from Europe and Asia. We need now more than ever to push for a United States of Africa in 2015 with Mugabe at the helm of the AU. A union government can use the full collective and great power of Africa’s natural resources as leverage to negotiate the best deals for African people, and to also prevent the imperialist powers from imposing their whim and will on

African people.

We must advance the Pan-African Movement from “no struggle, no progress” to “sacrifice for victory.” The next major action for a Pan-African People’s “United States of Africa” summit is on the eve of the AU summit in June 2015. Until that time, we must resist, and also advance with “No UGA, No AGOA.” Now, let the AGOA be authenticated with the stamp of the “great Zimbabwe trust” for fair trade with Africa’s union government, including Zimbabwe. Otherwise, we have a duty to “kill that bill.”

Minister P.D. Menelik Harris is the current secretary General of WADU. He has served as the former Africa policy activist for ACOA, a student organizer for AAPRP, and Program Director for the RHAW/ITC. He has also served as an Instructor of Africana, economics and history at both the high school and college levels. He can be reached at amenelik@aol.com and wadupam.org.