News / Africa

Addis Forum to Discuss Future of African Growth and Opportunity Act

AGOA works to improve trade and regional intregration with trade hubs in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana. (USAID)AGOA works to improve trade and regional intregration with trade hubs in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana. (USAID)
AGOA works to improve trade and regional intregration with trade hubs in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana. (USAID)
AGOA works to improve trade and regional intregration with trade hubs in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana. (USAID)
William Eagle
US and African delegates will meet next week (August 12-13) to discuss the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. Representatives of government, private sector and civil society will hold talks Monday and Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Over the past decade, the US legislation has dropped tariffs on 1,800 African imports, including agricultural products, apparel and some textiles. Analysts say it’s also helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs on the continent.
Participants will focus how to improve, and renew, AGOA, which is set to expire in September 2015.

The forum will look at AGOA’s successes and challenges. US Trade Representative Mike Froman will lead a delegation including officials from USAID and the Departments of State and Commerce.

AGOA’s successes are many:  Since coming into force 12 years ago, it has boosted trade between the US and sub-Saharan Africa.  US officials say today the US imports over $35 billion worth of goods from the continent, much of it natural resources,  and non-oil imports have tripled. They include such value-added products as vehicles, apparel, manufactured goods and processed agricultural products like fruits and nuts. In return, the US exports $22 billion of goods to Africa.

US officials say the forum will provide an opportunity to evaluate AGOA and see how it can be improved to boost job creation, growth, and trade –especially in non-oil products.

Florizelle Liser, the assistant US trade representative for Africa in the Office of the US Trade Representative,  said  "The [Obama] administration has already committed to have a seamless renewal of AGOA, but we want to make sure that we know all that AGOA has done. We want to know what the current challenges are to its further utilization, and this public review process will help us to do that. And of course, all of this will be towards the end of working with the US Congress, because AGOA is their baby as well as ours."

The forum will also include an event arranged by the Ethiopian African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and a US / sub-Saharan Africa Trade Exhibition arranged by the Ethiopian Chambers of Commerce and Sectoral Associations and the Corporate Council on Africa (or CCA). 

John Anderson, the acting assistant secretary for market access and compliance with the US Department of Commerce,  said during the session, the CCA will partner with the United States, African private sectors, governments, and other stakeholders to provide a platform for companies to identify opportunities, execute deals and network with African decision makers across many sectors.

"It will be dedicated to identifying opportunities for the United States and African private sectors to take full advantage of AGOA’s benefits and collectively pursue approaches that could increase the flow of trade and investment into Africa," he said.

US perspective

The views of the US Congress and the Obama administration will be an important part of forum sessions, as will be Africans’ perspectives on AGOA and their goals for economic relations with the US.

Ultimately, Congress will decide whether – and for how long – to extend the legislation. Legislators will also be looking at the domestic benefits to the US, and to what extent Africans reciprocate by opening their own markets to American investors. Liser said some will be comparing US and European access to African markets, now that many African governments are negotiating economic partnership agreements (or EPA’s) with the European Union.

"Those agreements," she said, "are supposed to be finalized by 2014. So even before AGOA has ended this time, the Europeans are already going to be getting duty-free access or lower tariff access into African markets that we’re interested in.

"So here’s the question that people in Congress and our businesses are asking:  Why should the United States, which also has an interest in African markets and also has partners in Africa and joint ventures in Africa – why should we continue to give access to the Africans duty-free into our market while they give better treatment to the Europeans into their markets?  What’s the reason why we would give them 10, 15, 20 more years of AGOA under those circumstances? "

African trade hubs

US officials say the AGOA forum will also give them a chance to highlight Obama administration initiatives aimed at boosting investment and economic growth on the continent. That includes its “Doing Business Campaign” which helps US businesses take advantage of investment opportunities in Africa. 

Liser said an important part of the effort is using regional trade hubs in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana to help small entrepreneurs understand AGOA and make their products competitive on the world market. The US works to bring them to trade shows where they can meet US buyers and potential partners for joint ventures.

"I have been to a number of Ethiopian factories which have been started by Ethiopian Americans, people who lived here for 10, 15, 20 years, [and] have gone back to Ethiopia," explained Liser. 

"One apparel factory that we went to is doing fantastically and shipping scrubs for people in the hospitals and stuff here, doing very, very well, as well as other products that they’re doing, and that is an Ethiopian-American that runs that. So I have been to a number of factories like that in Ethiopia and in other countries that are AGOA-eligible."

Regional integration

The forum will also give the US a chance to highlight its economic goals for Africa, including the creation of value-added products such as processed coffee, teas or fruit juices for export rather than raw materials.  Liser adds that although China has exceeded the US in trade with Africa, the US still remains the continent’s largest market for value-added products. 

Another goal is regional integration, which Liser says would help create economies of scale for regions with small, fragmented and often landlocked markets. 

"We in the US," she said, "are encouraging the Africans to do everything they can to liberalize their markets, to advance regional integration so that…any of the companies looking at establishing a business in one country can say, 'Okay, if I go into Burundi, I will also have access to Kenya and Rwanda and Uganda and Tanzania, because the five of them are in a regional economic community together.' ”

Global value chain

She said integration also brings African countries into the global value chain.

"Maybe in 20 years, the automobiles coming into the US will be made in Africa," she said.  "But I’m saying even right now, we have automobiles coming into the US.  produced in South Africa, lots of them coming in. And one question for Lesotho and the countries surrounding South Africa now is: Are there parts that you could make in that value chain that would go into automobiles that South Africa is shipping to the US.  right now, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes? Could you make the mirrors, the rugs that go on the floor?  Could Botswanan leather and Namibian leather go into the seats that are in those cars?  And that’s how the global values chains work."

Thirty-nine African countries are currently taking advantage of duty-free exports to the United States under AGOA. They include Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Eligibility for AGOA is based on a number of criteria related to good governance, including laws ensuring human and labor rights, steps toward  opening the economy to trade and investment and progress in fighting corruption. Liser says eligibility is reviewed yearly, and countries that are not part of AGOA today can eventually take part –  if they make the necessary political and economic reforms.

Listen to report on AGOA Forum
Listen to report on AGOA Forum i
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs