Fostering economic development in sub-Saharan Africa is a top priority of the United States, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, is the centerpiece of our trade policy on the continent.
Government officials, business leaders and civil society from African countries and the U.S. are meeting in Gabon’s capital Libreville this week to discuss how AGOA, now 15 years old, can provide even more business and investment opportunities for Africa’s people today and into the future.
Statistics support a growing consensus in both Africa and the United States that freer trade and increased international investment are critical to spurring economic development and reducing poverty. The U.S. Congress enacted AGOA in May 2000, providing a wide range of African products duty-free access to the U.S. market. AGOA has succeeded in helping eligible nations grow, diversify their exports to the United States and create employment and inclusive economic growth.
By 2014, African countries’ non-oil AGOA exports to the United States were valued at $4.4 billion, up roughly 250 percent from 2001. The growth of these non-oil industries has spurred an estimated 300,000 direct jobs in beneficiary countries.
AGOA’s success won overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, which this summer voted to reauthorize the program for another 10 years. That underscores our nation’s commitment to a stronger U.S.-Africa trade relationship and support for the region’s long-term economic growth.
The new AGOA legislation has an added clause, specifically calling for the promotion of the role of women in social, political and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. This acknowledges the vital role that women play as economic and civic leaders across the continent. Discussions during this year’s forum will explore ways to build strong, export-oriented businesses and prepare African women producers to integrate more fully into regional and global supply chains.
The 2015 forum will provide an opportunity to celebrate the recent reauthorization of AGOA, take stock of its successes over the last fifteen years, look to the next 10, and launch a dialogue on our shared vision for the future of U.S.-Africa trade.