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U.S.-Africa trade is expanding thanks to four regional trade hubs [technical assistance centers] located in Ghana, Senegal, Botswana and Kenya. The hubs aim to assist, enhance and broaden the flow of trade between the United States and Africa, both inside and outside the terms of the historic African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA.
While some eighty percent of U.S.-Africa trade concerns petroleum, the regional trade hubs are working to change that. According to Nathan Van Dusen, an economist with Carana Corporation, which is working under contract with the United States Agency for International Development [USAID] to help manage the trade hubs in West and Southern Africa, the hubs are helping to expand textile and apparel trade.
Southern Africa has been supplying the American-owned CVS drug store chain with work wear for its employees. Wal-Mart, another U.S.-owned business, has been purchasing T-shirts and other apparel items from West and Southern Africa.
Western and Southern African trade hubs sent business representatives to a large specialty food and trade show in New York in June. "Specialty foods last year in the United States were an $80 billion industry, and prior to the trade hubs working in this sector, there really was no presence of genuine African themes and manufactured products in the U.S. specialty food market," said Mr. Van Dusen. "We are now seeing a growing presence," he said.
Handmade gifts and décor trade items, including beaded jewelry, Rwandan gift baskets and traditional Malian Bogolan or mud cloth bags are also among the products being offered in U.S. stores, thanks to the trade hubs.
But despite the progress, expanded U.S.-Africa trade still faces obstacles, including transportation costs and labor productivity. Corruption, political instability, and weak rule of law can pose serious risks to businessmen looking to invest in Africa.
The U.S. is committed to working with its African nation partners to expand trade and economic opportunity for Americans and the peoples of Africa.