"Decision on future of AGOA lies with US Congress"
The decision on the future of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) now lies with the United States (US) Congress as it will go through the legislative process.
African leaders last week called for the extension of the trade programme, adding that if any enhancements are to be made, they should be done after the extension.
The continent’s Trade Ministers, businesspeople, civil society and trade unions debated the future of the trade agreement between Africa and the US that is due to expire on September 30, 2025 calling for its renewal before then.
They met for the 20th AGOA Forum in Nasrec, South of Johannesburg. AGOA is the United States government's signature trade initiative with sub-Saharan Africa.
The decision on the programme’s future now lies with the US Congress as it goes through the legislative process.
There, they will consider the outcomes of the forum, that took place over three days in Johannesburg.
SA’s Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel officially closed the 20th AGOA Forum this Saturday.
More than 160 business participants and trade unions were invited to engage on trade and investment matters, with a total of 2 000 participants visiting this year's forum.
Addressing the closing of the AGOA Forum, Patel said this Summit has affirmed the vital partnership between the US and Africa.
“There has been an extraordinary level of support for the continuation partnership of AGOA, not just from Africans but from the Americans, who have been part of this forum, not just from governments but also from the private sector, with great support from the Corporate Council of Africa and the US Chamber of Commerce. Not only from businesspeople, but also from the voices of workers and communities. There has been some common messages that have come out. We've looked at the mutual beneficial character of our economic relationship as a compelling argument to renew and extend the AGOA, to improve and refine AGOA, and to complement and support AGOA with additional measures. Renew, refine and complement became the watchwords,” said Patel.
The Deputy Minister Trade and Industry of Ghana Nana Ama Dokua Asiamah Adjei says an extension will be good for Africa.
“Generally, with the African countries, we all believe a 20-year extension will be good for us. Twenty years gives investors the comfort in investing because it's a lot of money putting up an investment, and if we are able to invest and we have the guarantee that your investment is going to have access to this market for a minimum of 20 years, it gives you the comfort and the security for your investment,” Adjei said.
Khanyisile Dlamini, Founder and Creative Director of Zip & Zen based in KwaZulu Natal in SA was among the hundreds of exhibitors at the Forum. Dlamini says the forum offered immense opportunities.
“We celebrate the diversity of Africa, so we'd like to have our products outside SA in other countries. We've met people from Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, and we'd love to have some networking with them in the future. We'd like to have some collaborations with them as well, especially with the sourcing of fabrics. Because we use African textiles, so it would be better to actually support people personally way because we know there's a lot of women's empowerment through art, creativity and textiles. So we'd like to work with them closely versus just buying, you know, fabrics and textiles on mainstream platforms,” Dlamini said.
On October 31, the US government's Joe Biden administration announced the removal of AGOA beneficiary status from Uganda, Niger, Gabon and Central African Republic, effective January 1, 2024.
There are about 6 800 products that have duty-free access to the US under AGOA. By the end of August, $6.90 billion exports were calculated under the Act.