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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs