Africa's continuing development is a top priority for the United States. “Africa is a place of incredible dynamism, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, extraordinary people, extraordinary resilience,” said President Barack Obama. “It has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth.”
There is little doubt that increasing trade is one of the fastest ways to promote economic growth, boost development and reduce poverty. That is why, 15 years ago, the United States initiated and passed into law, the African Growth And Opportunity Act, or AGOA. It is a trade preference program that eliminates import tariffs on most goods from eligible countries into the United States, thus easing the way for African products to enter U.S. markets.
However, nations interested in participating in AGOA must first meet certain criteria set by the United States, including supporting market-based economies and the rule of law, and protecting human rights.
Since its inception in the summer of 2000, AGOA has created economic opportunities by supporting regional integration, helping African companies become more competitive, and fostering an enabling environment for private sector investment. It has created some 350,000 direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs.
Over the years, AGOA has become the cornerstone of the U.S.-African economic relationship and has expanded U.S trade and investment with eligible sub-Saharan African countries. AGOA was due to expire in September 2015, but on July 25th, with strong backing from the Administration, the U.S. Congress extended the program for another ten years, and four days later, President Obama signed the extension into law.
“Now that it’s been renewed, AGOA will be central to our efforts to boost the trade and investment that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs both in Africa and the United States, creating opportunities for all of us,” said President Obama.“And I’m especially pleased that AGOA will continue to encourage good governance and labor and human rights. That’s something that we can be proud of.”
This year’s AGOA Forum will be held in Libreville, Gabon, on August 26-27, with the theme “AGOA at 15: Charting a Course Towards a Sustainable U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Partnership. It will be preceded by events organized by civil society, the private sector, and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. The U.S. government wants to create shared prosperity with sub-Saharan Africa. Our continued commitment to AGOA is a hallmark of this effort.