AGOA! Missed Opportunity?

Will Africa fight corruption and improve the business environment, or not? This is one of the few tough questions Secretary of State of the United States, Hilary Clinton said will be asked by the US Congress when it considers renewing Africa Growth opportunity Act (AGOA). Yet this question which is so critical for enhancing business and employment opportunities for our disadvantaged women and educated young people who have no jobs was not reported on by our public media.

Secretary Clinton who stated that population growth in young people in Sub-Saharan Africa who have no jobs has profound and far-reaching implications for Africa’s future. She cited the revolutions being led young people in North Africa and Middle East who felt that their governments where not meeting their needs. She said, “Young people in Tunisia, in Egypt and across the region are demanding not just more democracy but more economic opportunity. They say, look they say, we’ve studied, I’m willing to work hard, and yet there’s nothing for me here.”

When one reads the speeches of our leaders at the AGOA meeting as reported in the public media one would think there is very little happening in the fight against corruption and in the women and youth empowerment. Listen again to what Secretary Clinton said, “I am committed to doing everything I can to help every man and woman, every boy and girl, live up to his or her God -given potential. And I want to work with you to make sure that we have real results to be able to demonstrate.” Here was an opportunity to show case stories of successes of men, women, young boys and young girls who the government has helped pave the way for their success. There was little mentioned in the public media at what the government was doing to fight corruption and to improve the business environment for our young people and women.

Secretary Clinton knows that Zambia is a religious nation and in her opening remarks she joked how our Minister of Commerce, Felix Mutati spoke like a preacher and how she thought he was going to take up an offering. But did the church express its faith in the public arena of AGOA? It is my hope that the church in Lusaka did make it presence felt at the AGOA. It my prayer that the Lusaka church was at AGOA and its voice was heard in how it was committed to fighting corruption, seeking justice, encouraging the oppressed, defending the cause of the fatherless and pleading the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:16-17). Or was this a missed opportunity for the church to express its witness as the hope of the nation?

Lawrence Temfwe