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Views from the Center

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Latest AGOA Delay Comes from a Surprising Source

This is a joint post with Jenny Ottenhoff.

Last month, one of us wrote that Congress seemed to have compromised and reached a bipartisan deal to extend the rule (known technically but awkwardly as the third-country fabric rule) that allows poor African countries to export clothing to the United States duty-free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We should have known better. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was finally ready to bring a package of trade items, including the rule extension, to the floor for passage by unanimous consent when two senators put holds (subscription required) on it over completely unrelated issues – despite the fact that they actually support the extension.

Africa on K Street: Lobbying Is Not Restricted to the Developed World

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

The aid community is well-accustomed to pushing for transparency in foreign aid transactions. But are we missing another key flow of money?

A recent article by Geoffrey York, African bureau chief for the Globe and Mail, described a contract signed a few years ago by the Government of Rwanda with Racepoint Group, which was tasked with doing an image make-over for the Rwandan government for a monthly fee of over $50,000. The rationale was that public perceptions of Rwanda were dominated by the horrific genocide that occured in the 1990s, along with accounts of human rights abuses and media censorship. The contract with Racepoint reportedly aimed to increase the number of stories of Rwanda’s successes and block criticism of the government and its alleged human rights abuses. The effort landed more than 100 positive articles per month in newspapers from the New York Times to BBC, increased discussions of travel to Rwanda by 183%, and decreased discussion of the genocide by 11%, according to Racepoint.