(NNPA)—It has been three years since we last visited an African nation. Judging from our latest report much progress has been made. According to our Vice President of Special Programs, Charles DeBow, “cranes are everywhere.” That is a great indicator as the construction of new buildings, plants, etc. means economic growth and jobs. Chuck has just returned from a 10 day trade mission to Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia and his optimism is immense. The trade mission was organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is having a fresh look at Africa and likes what it sees.

Each of these nations has a written plan as to how it is going to grow and create a middle class amongst its population. They each recognize that education and commerce must go hand in hand. Ethiopia for example currently has nine current but has another 10 universities under construction. As businesses are created and grow, they will have an educated workforce to blend into the growth. The Internet and the growth of mobile phones are making the potential for growth immense.

Like the United States, energy will be the lifeblood of this growth. Ghana has recently discovered oil and is currently processing it. Ethiopia probably has the largest potential for oil but has yet to explore for it. Kenya has a smooth system for importing its oil needs. Electric plants are immensely needed and this will require a lot of capital. Alternative energy such as windmills, bio-mass, etc. are being utilized also. But, the key will be massive electrical power stations and all three nations are starting to address that need.

As with any other part of the world, China is there meddling. This nation does not play by the rules and is trying to compete with the United States, and everyone else, through monopoly and malfeasance. The most stunning example is the following. President George W. Bush was very kind to Africa. He signed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and implemented the Millennium Challenge Account, which awards billions of dollars for infrastructure to African nations that exhibit true democracy and good governance.

The big problem with the Millennium Challenge Account is that there were no stipulations that American businesses must be used in the process. Thus, when Ghana was awarded the first round of funding for the program China ran in. No company, Ghanaian, U.S. or otherwise would be able to compete with China when the contracts were released. So, when the bidding for the new George W. Bush Highway went into action China won. How did they do it? There is no cost of labor. ??China has brought in prisoners from the nation and has made them slaves doing construction labor in Ghana. Imagine that, 21st century and now slaves are being imported to Africa. Have you gotten back up yet? What’s worse after their sentences are up they must stay in Ghana for the rest of their lives, i.e. exiled from their homeland. Our State Department has done nothing about this and it is time to hold them accountable. How can United States tax money be used to sponsor slavery?

In regards to AGOA, China and the U.S. textile industry encouraged the Congressional Black Caucus to make an amendment to it. In order to qualify for duty free imports from Africa you no longer have to use African raw materials in regards to textiles. Thus, China sends its cotton to Africa after it has been processed by prison slaves. The end product such as pants, coats and dresses arrive to America duty free with labels saying “Made in Kenya”, “Made in Uganda”, etc. What has happened is that cotton farmers in various African nations have been put out of business.

What President George W. Bush has done for Africa is truly beautiful. We should not let a shameless nation like China mess it up and cause harm to our Motherland. It is important that the delivery of these programs is consistent with the true intent. There is too much at stake here and we should be the vanguards.

Of the three nations visited, Kenya is the busiest. However, Ghana and Ethiopia also have it going on. It is up to us to have American companies invest and explore the opportunities in this rich continent. IBM has now put up 16 facilities and is looking to greatly expand from that. Newmont Mining has produced more than $2 billion in revenue in its first few years in Ghana. Africa, the “Last Frontier” will be no frontier much longer but a part of the new and better modern world. To read our written report on the Africa Trade Mission go to the National Black Chamber of Commerce® website.

(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: http://www.nationalbcc.org. E-mail: halford@national­bcc.org http://www.twitter.com/nationalbcc.)

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