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US Agency Seeks Higher Profile at AGOA Summit in Accra

In Accra, Ghana, the summit continues on AGOA, the US African Growth and Opportunity Act. The legislation has made it easier for many African countries to do business in American markets. However, some participants at the summit say US trade regulations are still too strict and force them to seek markets that are more open.

Among the groups attending the summit is the US African Development Foundation, an independent public corporation founded by Congress in 1980. Its mandate is to help reduce poverty on the continent.

Rodney MacAlister is president of the foundation. From Accra, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the agency’s participation in the summit.

“From the standpoint of the African Development Foundation, we’ve never enjoyed any particular profile at past AGOA forums. And yet the model that we pursue of investing in African owned and managed small and medium sized enterprise is one of the keys to AGOA’s success. So, this year, we’ve taken a very deliberate approach to have a much higher profile and to involve some of our customers from Africa. And in other ways shine the spotlight on what we’ve been doing on the continent for the last 27 years,” he says.

Asked whether he’s seen much difference since the implementation of AGOA, MacAlister says, “There’s certainly an improvement. Probably not as much of an improvement as we’d like to see…but we certainly over the last few years have been able to identify, nurture and grow a number of different enterprises that have sourced products into the United States market.”

He says the foundation works to build capacity in Africa. “What AGOA essentially does is open up access to US markets for African producers. But if African businesses cannot produce to the quantities, qualities and delivery and reliability standards that US customers require, then all the amount of access to the market in the world is no good. So, we really concentrate on the African source end and help the entrepreneurs here to produce to the standards and expectations of the American customer,” he says.