Illinois firms in S. Africa add little to quality of life

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Illinois-based companies have a major share -- nearly one-tenth -- of total United States investment in South Africa. That is the conclusion of a two-year study released yesterday by Clergy and Laity Concerned, a national religious organization long concerned with South Africa and other human rights issues. The group claims it has done the first detailed study of investment in the African nation by the companies of a single state. The study is intended to help organizations decide whether or not to invest in US companies doing business in South Africa.

Despite claims that investment actually helps nonwhites there, the study of 31 Illinois companies found the opposite. ``Illinois firms have not been able to significantly impact the quality of life for a significant number of nonwhites,'' says Norman Watkins, author of the religious group's study.

The pattern is uneven. Some firms, such as Deere & Co., employ relatively few workers and have a good labor record with nonwhites. But others, which employ the bulk of the nonwhites, have bad records, Mr. Watkins says. These include major Illinois firms, such as Caterpillar Tractor Company, International Minerals and Chemical Corporation, and the Masonite division of US Gypsum Company.

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The level of investment from Illinois companies is a relatively modest $230 million. But Watkins says he was surprised at the levels of new investments by some Illinois companies to upgrade or expand their South African facilities during the past three years. ``That was dramatic,'' says Watkins.

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