Lesotho, one of the beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), has sent a delegation to the United States to try to persuade US consumers to boycott the kingdom's textile exports.

The lobby group, led by Daniel Maraisane, president of the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers' Union (LECAWU), is protesting against what it describes as "slave-like working conditions" in the industry.

Under the AGOA, which was designed to improve African exporters' access to US markets, foreign investment in Lesotho has grown four-fold and textile exports to the US increased by over 50 per cent.

But the union says workers are forced to work 12-hour days instead of the eight hours stipulated by law, and are not paid for the extra work. It also says monthly salaries are around half the country's minimum wage.

"The purpose of this trip will be to lobby American companies not to buy our textile products because of slave-like conditions which workers have to endure in these sweatshops," said a senior union official. "We will no longer put up with these conditions. We will most definitely request the Americans not to buy Lesotho textiles."