By Vision Reporter
African countries last week asked the US to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for another 15 years. AGOA, a US government signature trade initiative with sub-Saharan Africa, was signed into law in 2000.
But over a decade now, few African countries have benefited from the initiatives, which offer duty free and quota free access for some 6,500 selected products to the US markets.
US Trade Secretary Michael Froman told the forum in Addis that the US is strongly committed to expanding trade and investment, and to supporting broad-based economic opportunity and prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa.
“By providing new market opportunities for African exports, especially of nontraditional and value-added products, AGOA has helped African firms become more competitive both in the US and internationally,” Froman said.
“Many African businesses that had never previously considered the US market are attending trade shows and getting orders for everything from Ugandan organic cotton T-shirts to Mauritian seafood and Ghanaian cocoa powder”.
The permanent secretary in the trade ministry, Ambassador Julius Onen, who led the Ugandan delegation to the forum, said that AGOA renewal must be based on a firm foundation that will bring a conducive environment for investments.
Sub-Saharan African countries met in Addis Ababa from August 9 to13, for the AGOA 2013 Forum with the theme “Sustainable Transformation through Trade and Technology”. This is the 12th edition of AGOA forum since it commenced in 2000.
Senior presidential advisor on AGOA and trade Susan Muhwezi, said AGOA needs to be renewed for 15 years for us to find our feet. Investing in Africa at this time is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.”
Speaking at the closing of the forum, deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission Erastus Mwencha said AGOA is an unfinished business and the “hard work begins now to renew the current provision and authorise the Act in time”. The forum brought together senior US government officials and ministers of the 39 African states eligible for participation in AGOA.
According to the US State Department, the total African exports under AGOA have more than quadrupled since the programme’s inception.
In 2012, AGOA-eligible countries exported nearly $35b in products to the US duty free under AGOA and its related Generalised System of Preferences provisions.
Since 2001, total US trade with sub-Saharan Africa (exports plus imports) have grown more than 250%, from $28.2b in 2001, the first full year of AGOA trade, to $72.3b in 2012.