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AGOA: Facing the Challenges


This week’s feature series is on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Tonight, the challenges faced and how to deal with them.

Paul Ryberg is the president of the African Coalition for Trade, a non-profit group advocating for trade with the United States. He told English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard the fundamental challenge is one of capacity building. He says, “The advantages offered by AGOA are affected by the background trading and development environment.” For example, when AGOA was enacted, a “multi-fiber “ arrangement was in effect. That was an international agreement that allowed importing countries to put quotas on textile and apparel products. This created incentives for US importers to get a larger variety of suppliers which “reinforced the benefits of AGOA in attracting investment into apparel manufacturing in Africa.”

Ryberg says a World Trade Organization agreement in 2005 ended the “multi-fiber” quotas which eliminated incentives for African countries, and also caused a drop in apparel imports. “It had nothing to do with anything IN Africa, it had everything to do with a change in the background trading environment.” He says virtually everything Africa exports is eligible under AGOA. But he says countries benefiting the most are those that have already relatively well developed trade capacity, and, he says, the least developed countries “have had the hardest time taking advantage of AGOA, simply because they have not had the skill sets to produce products that are attractive on the US market or to market those products in the United States.”

Ryberg says AGOA’s benefits are limited in certain African countries by world trade decisions that affect a particular African country’s enterprise. But he says, “The main goal of AGOA—and it has had significant impact—has been to move the African countries forward toward greater economic development.” He says AGOA IS having a significant impact on furthering that economic development.

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