News / Africa

African Business Leaders Eye Expanded Exports Under US Trade

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C), arrives at the opening session of the eighth Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) Forum in Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 5, 2009 (file photo)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C), arrives at the opening session of the eighth Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) Forum in Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 5, 2009 (file photo)

African business leaders are meeting in Zambia for talks on how they can take better advantage of U.S. trade preferences. The Obama administration wants Congress to extend those duty-free imports.

In the 10 years of trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA], exports to the United States have grown from $23 billion to $64 billion.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said that has helped improve African business and African governance.

“AGOA has made progress in creating jobs, spurring economic growth and facilitating a dialogue on key economic and political challenges facing many countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

Extending AGOA

The AGOA program is set to expire in 2015. The Obama administration wants Congress to extend it for another 10 years. AGOA-eligible countries are allowed to export certain kinds of products to the United States duty free, which Washington says encourages trade, not aid.

Ghana, for example, exported nearly $400 million worth of AGOA-eligible products in the first quarter of this year, twice what it did last year.

The director of export services at Ghana's Ministry of Trade and Industry, Gerald Nyarko-Mensah, says AGOA opens doors but investors will only pass through those doors if a country has the right business climate.

American retailers Pier One and Target have ordered more than $3 million worth of Ghanaian home décor products through AGOA.

“Thousands of artisans had to be mobilized to produce the large quantities that these buyers wanted," said Nyarko-Mensah. "This kind of mass production had never happened in our country before. In the beginning, even the banks had difficulty because pre-financing such large orders was something they had not done previously for artisanal producers. So it has opened a whole new paradigm, particularly for micro-enterprises.”

Trade, not aid

Ugandan businesswoman Anne Babumba Magero exports organic soaps under AGOA. She said the program gives African women the power to make their own decisions about their own finances.

“We are more independent," she said. "Now we can look after our families. We can educate our children. We have done a lot for ourselves. We are not there waiting for our men to do each and everything for us. Yes.”

The director of private sector development at Angola's chamber of commerce and industry, Jose Rodrigues Alentejo, says his country is just starting to take advantage of AGOA.

“AGOA is a good opportunity, but we are not yet feeling the results," said Alentejo. "Only now are we starting to produce some products of quality and competitive prices. This means that we are now starting to approach the international market.”

Angola is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, or COMESA. The trade group's director for investment promotion and private sector development, Chungu Mwila, said the continent has not yet fully exploited AGOA's potential.

Tapping the full potential

“African governments have not been able to create the productive capacity to make them competitive with other economies elsewhere," said Mwila. "So it is narrow. The range of products is limited. If you look at the volumes, yes, there have been some increases here and there. But I think we could be doing a lot more under the provisions of AGOA.”

Textile and oil products still dominate AGOA exports. Mwila said his goal for this meeting in Zambia is to improve Africa's performance, especially in areas where it may have a competitive advantage, such as agriculture.

“The potential lies in agriculture, semi-processed agricultural products," said Mwila. "We need to diversify away from the textile industries, from petroleum products, so we are able to put semi-processed goods on that market.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives Friday in Zambia to help close this AGOA forum. While in Lusaka, she will meet with Zambian President Rupiah Banda and speak to the U.S.-Zambia chamber of commerce.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

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 After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

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 Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

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 Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

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 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.

VOA Blogs