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US ambassador: AGOA is an opportunity to deepen ties between the US and South Africa

US ambassador: AGOA is an opportunity to deepen ties between the US and South Africa
Published date:
Thursday, 09 November 2023

President Joe Biden last December at the US-Africa Leaders Summit affirmed that the US will elevate its relationship with Africa.

The future is Africa. One example is its youthful population: the median age on the continent is 19. By 2050, one in four people in the world will be in Africa. The US wants them to be healthy and wealthy.

What happens in Africa will affect the rest of the globe — and we want to work together to ensure it is bright, safe and prosperous.

Our stories have always been intertwined. Today we know that our success — the success of all our people, on both sides of the Atlantic — is inextricably linked.

Our African partners are central to Washington’s approach to driving trade that is accessible, fair, competitive and resilient. We need to partner together to protect the dignity of all workers and the sustainability of our planet — and pursue a race to the top among institutions and enterprises.

The African Growth & Opportunity Act, or Agoa, is a key pillar to realising this vision for shared prosperity. Since it was signed more than two decades ago, Agoa has made a tremendous difference for millions of Africans. By providing duty-free access to the US market for more than 6,800 products, the legislation has helped to create jobs and economic opportunities, including for women and youth. If you manage a business here in South Africa, I encourage you to see how you might use Agoa to increase your sales, train more employees and better your community.

Agoa is an example of how we can use trade as a force for good. To maintain eligibility, countries must uphold values that are core to free and fair societies: the rule of law, labour rights, human rights and intolerance of corruption. 

In a nutshell, Agoa is intended to be a transformational tool to bolster inclusive prosperity across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here’s an example of how Agoa has affected South Africa. I learnt a few weeks back about the Wonderful pomegranate, a special variety of the fruit that carries a super seed with benefits for human beings and livestock. The protein-rich peel can be used for animal feed. The oils extracted are used in beauty products. And it is processed to make juices, ports, wines and craft beers. 

I learnt about this fruit thanks to Karoo Pak, a new and upcoming USAID-supported exporter that has brilliantly capitalised on it to make delicious juices and other products. This year it secured deals to export more than R75m of goods, duty-free, to the US, which will in turn create jobs in South Africa. This small and determined business reaching new heights emulates Agoa.

I want us to find more opportunities for local companies to train South Africans and export high-quality, valuable goods to the US.

This is why the Biden-Harris administration fully supports reauthorising Agoa, as the benefits of the legislation are set to expire in 2025. The US Congress holds the pen on reauthorisation, and we are committed to working closely with Congress throughout the process to ensure this legislation is impactful and relevant.

Doing more

Policy tools such as Agoa are meant to be used, tested and sharpened over time — which was the driving purpose of the Agoa Forum in Johannesburg last week.

Every year, the US trade representative and trade ministers from every country that participates in Agoa come together to take stock of their work together and find opportunities to do more. It is an opportunity to gauge progress to date and, perhaps more importantly, discuss if we can improve Agoa to better serve more Africans and Americans.

Not only that, the forum is a catalyst to convene a broader community. Government officials, private sector investors and leaders of civil society and labour all come together from across the continent and the US with a shared goal of using trade to create better opportunities.

This is a valuable moment in South Africa’s economic engagement with the US, and I look forward to continuing the robust, forward-looking conversation we launched at the forum last week.

Brigety is US ambassador to South Africa

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