She applauds Secretary of State Clinton for visiting the strategically important countries of Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. She also welcomes Mrs. Clinton's emphasis on women's rights -- a message most clearly expressed near the Rwandan border with Congo in the city of Goma. But, Ms. Frazer is less satisfied that the trip did much to advance "core" US interests: promoting economic growth and trade, combating terrorism, and improving governance.
She offers four policy initiatives that would help to "translate the rhetoric of love into policies that advance the mutual U.S. and African interests." I'm only going to discuss one of her recommendations, which is this: do not extend AGOA trade preferences to a small subset of developing nations that includes some south Asian and some Islamic nations. Ms. Frazer argues: "extending the same trade preferences to hypercompetitive Cambodia and Bangladesh—each of which individually exports more apparel to the U.S. than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined—will undermine the program's success in Africa." Here's a link to the proposed legislation that would expand the trade bill -- it's currently in committee.
But note that the success Ms. Frazer identifies is based on playing favorites. Maybe African producers should be favored over Bangladeshi producers, but on what grounds? A different version of this question would be: "why should African manufacturers be shielded from competition from other developing world producers?"
A policy of favoritism is problematic is because it encourages investment in less competitive African industries. Duty-free products have a "leg up" in the marketplace: they can be sold for a lower price than can products that have an import duty/tax. What Ms. Frazer is saying is that if you take the tariffs off Bangladeshi or Cambodian apparel American consumers will prefer them (because they're now cheaper) and buy more of them which means we'll buy less African-made apparel. This may be true for clothing, but Africans will have an advantage in other industries (eco-tourism, solar energy, telecom) and it is into these industries that investment rand, naira, schillings, etc. should flow if African apparel manufacturers are truly less competitive.
Is protectionism a strategy for creating sustainable economic growth in Africa? No, it's a strategy in which short-term gains in employment and export opportunities are traded for longer-term growth in the form of truly competitive industries. Are there different policies the US could adopt to help promote economic growth and development in Africa? A couple of things: end or limit our own agricultural subsidies to encourage developing-world farmers to compete with US farmers, expand AGOA rules to allow more processed agricultural products to come into the US duty/quota free, and continue to encourage African governments to reduce intra-regional trade barriers. These steps, coupled with much-needed improvements in governance, will help spur economic growth and development in Africa -- promoting favoritism will not.