Mauritius: Business minister urges SMEs to maximise AGOA benefits
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) offers a duty-free access to the largest market in the world. Although it has the potential to be a major driving force in African development, the AGOA has been under utilised. With the renewal of AGOA up to 2025, it is high time to maximise its potential for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).
This statement was made yesterday by the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, Mr S. Bholah at the launching of AGOA Preparedness Workshop for SMEs at Westin Turtle Bay hotel in Balaclava.
He stated that this workshop is a valuable springboard for the next phase of engagement with American trade partners on further initiatives for strengthening bilateral ties between United States and Mauritius. In this regard, he highlighted that with tougher competition in the European market, AGOA is today the engine that drives more than 90% of apparel exports of Africa to the US.
The Minister emphasised that duty free and quota free export possibilities under the AGOA agreement is a means to open up international market access for SMEs while ensuring competition and survival of the emerging sectors namely Home Décor and Accessories, Apparel and Specialty Food. Elaborating on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and inadequate information related to exporting adventure, he underscored that the workshop will address these issues and urge SMEs to access the US market.
Minister Bholah recalled that with the expiration of the AGOA programme in 2025, Mauritius should strive towards a new US-Africa trade architecture by developing a US market-focused export sector that competes globally on firm and country-level competitive advantages, and not trade regime-based advantages.
For her part, the Chargé d'Affaires of US Embassy to Mauritius, Dr Melanie Zimmerman, underpinned that Mauritius shares strong diplomatic relations with the US through exchange programmes, training and trade, and that the preparedness workshop is part of the US commitment to help Mauritius prepare for a post-AGOA era in 2025.
She pointed that the workshop focuses on two priorities. The first priority is to understand that trade has become the foundation for a prosperous and connected global economy and the second is to make SMEs aware of the US support in promoting economic growth through AGOA. However, she stressed that the AGOA is not a permanent mechanism and that SMEs should benefit from its advantages by diversifying and securing future potential markets.
The objectives of the Workshop are to examine the constraints affecting product diversification on the US market and to help SMEs to be aware of the existing opportunities provided by AGOA.
The workshop will focus on three sectors namely Apparel, Home Décor and Fashion accessories and Specialty Food and will be preceded by a stock taking exercise by three US experts from the East Africa Trade Hub.
Some 100 participants including entrepreneurs and representatives from the public and private sectors are attending the workshop. It comprises panel discussions and sharing of experiences with successful AGOA exporters.
Participants will also benefit from discussions with representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority, Enterprise Mauritius, Customs Department and MauBank, amongst others.