Washington — The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has boosted exponentially the United States’ trade with sub-Saharan Africa and remains the “centerpiece” of U.S. economic engagement with the region, according to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.
Speaking ahead of the annual AGOA forum, scheduled to take place in Washington June 14–15, Carson said the pivotal economic development program “remains very relevant today not only for the trade preferences it provides eligible African countries, but also for the platform it gives the U.S. government to engage in an economic dialogue with our African partners.”
The assistant secretary told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa during testimony April 17 that U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa has grown significantly during the past 10 years.
U.S. exports to the region have tripled from less than $7 billion in 2001 to more than $21 billion in 2011, while U.S. imports hit $74.2 billion last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The department reported the top destinations for U.S. exports in 2011 were South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana and Ethiopia. U.S. exports in machinery, vehicles, mineral fuels, cereals and aircraft drove the export growth.
U.S. imports from sub-Saharan Africa grew by 14 percent from 2010, driven by an increase in African exports of mineral fuels, precious metals and stones, vehicles and cocoa products. Major exporters to the United States were Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Gabon and Chad.
Carson commended these strengthening economic ties and said that “increasing two-way trade and enhancing investment helps to grow economies on both sides of the Atlantic.”
While Africa's growth is impressive, he said, it still only accounts for less than 2 percent of global trade.
“It is my firm belief that Africa represents the next global economic frontier, and I am not alone in that assessment,” Carson said, noting that the World Bank projects growth rates of between 5 percent and 6 percent during the next two years for Africa.
Carson said AGOA, which is part of the Trade and Development Act of 2000, will continue to be critical in supporting this growth. AGOA allows participating countries in sub-Saharan Africa to export nearly all of their goods to the United States duty-free. By removing taxes and other trade and customs barriers, AGOA has helped African countries to increase and diversify their exports.
Signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in May 2000, AGOA was designed to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, stimulate economic growth, promote trade and investment talks, encourage economic integration and help bring sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy. Currently, 40 countries participate in AGOA.
The 2012 forum will focus on how to improve Africa’s infrastructure to facilitate and increase trade and development. It will bring together more than 600 participants, including senior U.S. and African government officials, members of the private sector and civil society representatives.