Lesotho has been dubbed one of Africa’s most well-positioned nations in terms of benefiting from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade privileges, but the country would face a debilitating loss of the United States opted to pull those privileges.
AGOA allows sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the U.S. market for a range of products so long as they abide by the law, protect labor and human rights and don’t engage in corruption.
But the U.S. has voiced concerns about the country’s current political conditions.
Lesotho has been in tumult since August when citizens attempted a coup against former prime minister Tom Thabane, who was later defeated in February elections.
In a statement last week, U.S. press relations director Jeff Rathke said, “The United States is concerned that no one has been held accountable for the August 2014 political unrest and violence between the military and police, yet the Government of Lesotho has reinstated one of the most polarizing figures from that difficult period as Commander of the Lesotho Defense Force.”
Since the attempted coup, kidnappings and abuse within the Lesotho Defense Force have been reported, a prominent supporter of the major opposition party was killed and no security was provided for Thabane, who recently fled the country fearing for his life.
“As a longstanding friend and partner, the United States urges the Government of Lesotho to take robust, concrete steps to address these concerns and demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to the vital democratic principle of civilian control over the military,” Rathke said.
Ts’eliso Ramochela, secretary general of the Alliance of Progressive Trade Unions noted the United States’ concerns, telling Bloomberg Lesotho must avoid a similar fate to Swaziland, which had its AGOA privileges revoked last June because of a lack of workers’ rights protection.
If the U.S. decides to remove Lesotho’s AGOA benefits, the country could stand to lose 35,000 jobs in its textile sector, according to Bloomberg.