Target: Penny Pritzker, United States Secretary of Commerce
Goal: Call on officials to prioritize local control of resources, environmental protections and workers’ rights in their push to promote U.S. investment in Africa
President Obama has hailed the recent “Africa Summit” as the answer to the continent’s epidemic poverty. Environmental protection and human rights organizations have expressed deep concerns about the true motivations of this gathering, officially known as the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. Centuries of exploitation both of human beings and of the land itself are largely responsible for Africa’s current troubles, from drought to war. According to Common Dreams, the current multi-billion dollar efforts to further open the continent to American businesses will in fact increase rather than reduce poverty there.
The forum gave executives from some of the most powerful companies in America the opportunity to speak directly with leaders from dozens of African nations. “…it’s an ugly scramble for oil, minerals, and markets for U.S. goods,” wrote John Feffer in Foreign Policy in Focus. “Everyone wants a piece of Africa: drooling outsiders, corrupt insiders, cynical middle men.” Forbes magazine described the forum and its importance from a corporate perspective: “Africa might well be the biggest market opportunity in the global economy today, and U.S. companies cannot afford to miss out.”
The United States Department of Commerce was instrumental in organizing the forum, and continues to push for increased American investment in Africa. Demand that officials create regulations to ensure local control over natural resources as a part of these business deals, and hold U.S.-based companies accountable for their labor and environmental abuses to prevent further plunder of the continent.
Dear Secretary Pritzker,
In your efforts to promote American investment in Africa, I encourage you to consider the consequences centuries of exploitation have had on the African lands and people. Without a sincere commitment from leaders in Africa and the U.S., this current thirst for oil, minerals and markets for American goods stands to do more harm than good: further displacing people from their traditional homes, and plundering the continent without benefiting the lives of most individuals who live there.
The U.S.-Africa Business Forum, organized in large part by the Department of Commerce, has been widely criticized for seeking to further open African markets without ensuring that development will benefit local communities. This mentality has already contributed greatly to the destabilization of the continent and the suffering of its people.
I call on you and your colleagues to help regulate U.S.-based companies seeking to operate in Africa, prioritizing the protection of workers and the environment and the local ownership of natural resources.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit:via Wikimedia Commons