- African Growth and Opportunity Act
TRALAC - Trade Law Centre
You are here: Home/News/Article/US-Africa trade deal turns 25 next year: AGOA's winners, losers and what should come next

US-Africa trade deal turns 25 next year: AGOA's winners, losers and what should come next

US-Africa trade deal turns 25 next year: AGOA's winners, losers and what should come next
Published date:
Monday, 06 May 2024
Bedassa Tadesse

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) is a landmark piece of trade legislation enacted by the United States in 2000.

Its goal is to promote economic growth, development and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa by providing qualifying countries with duty-free access to the US market for over 6,500 products.

By eliminating import tariffs and quotas, Agoa aims to stimulate trade, attract foreign investment and foster economic integration between the US and African nations.

Agoa has made strides in boosting exports from eligible African countries to the US. Between 2001 and 2021, the annual value of US imports from Agoa-eligible countries nearly tripled, from US$8.15 billion to US$21.8 billion. The trade preferences have particularly benefited sectors like apparel, textiles, agriculture and light manufacturing. However, Agoa’s impact has been uneven across the region. Some countries have used the opportunities more effectively than others.

As Agoa approaches its 25th anniversary next year, policymakers are consideringextending it for a further 16 years. I recently conducted a comprehensive reviewof scholarly articles and policy reports that analyse the impact of Agoa on the economic performance of sub-Saharan Africa. Below are the four key observations.

1. Some countries have benefited more than others

Agoa’s benefits can’t be measured in just one metric. They reflect in various terms for various countries. But available research indicates that the countries that benefited most from Agoa include South Africa, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Ghana.

These nations have used Agoa preferences to substantially increase their exports to the US, particularly in sectors like apparel, textiles and light manufacturing. 

Kenya, where apparel-dominated exports to the US have grown from US$55 million in 2001 to US$603 million in 2022, is a shining example of growth in exports. Mauritius exported chocolate and basket-weaving materials. Maliexported buckwheat, travel goods and musical instruments until its 2022 suspension. Mozambique exported sugar, nuts and tobacco. Togo exported wheat, legumes and fruit juices.

Lesotho’s success story is equally inspiring. It has had rapid export growth and job creation in its apparel sector, and this has contributed to new manufacturing jobs. 

These success stories underscore the potential of Agoa to drive economic growth and job creation. 

2. Some countries have not benefited much

Central and west African countries have not extensively used Agoa’s benefits. They have been held back by weakness in infrastructure, governance and global market integration.

Burundi, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali have seen little export growth and foreign direct investment, or no benefits. 

3. Reason for the uneven benefits

The variation in Agoa’s impact across sub-Saharan Africa is down to several factors. First, countries with better infrastructure, stable governance and conducive business environments are better positioned to attract foreign investment and increase exports.

Second, the level of economic diversification and export capabilities matters. Countries with more diversified export baskets and established manufacturing sectors have managed to make the most of Agoa’s opportunities.

Third, national policies and strategies to complement Agoa are essential. Countries that put in place policies to improve productivity, integrate value chains and ease supply-side constraints appear to have had success under Agoa. Cultural (historical) connections with the US market may have also provided an advantage for some countries, like Kenya and Lesotho.

4. What the future holds

The US Senate is considering extending Agoa for another 16 years. It is vital to consider the lessons learned from the past 25 years. 

Diversify the economy and add value: Many countries still rely heavily on primary commodity exports. This leaves them vulnerable to global price movements and limits their economic development prospects.

Invest in infrastructure: Transport, energy and communication are critical to enhance competitiveness and attract more foreign direct investment. Public-private partnerships and multilateral development financing could help to fill infrastructure gaps.

Promote good governance, political stability and institutional reforms: These create an enabling environment for businesses and investors. It means strengthening legal frameworks, combating corruption and ensuring the rule of law.

Build capacity and develop skills: It should be a priority to enhance human capital and create a skilled workforce that can support the other steps outlined above.

Recognise the diverse economic, political and social contexts in sub-Saharan Africa: Tailored strategies and targeted assistance could work better for individual countries.

As Agoa approaches its 25th anniversary, the potential extension through 2041 presents a strategic opportunity. The sub-Saharan African countries should refine and broaden Agoa’s impact to better serve the diverse needs of the region. By tackling the uneven impacts and focusing on sustainable development goals, Agoa can continue to play a part in the region’s economic transformation. The US and beneficiary countries must work together closely to ensure the benefits are widespread and inclusive.

Bedassa Tadesse, Professor of Economics, University of Minnesota Duluth

Read related news articles

African trade coalition backs AGOA 16-year renewal bill to boost trade prospects

The African Coalition for Trade (ACT) has voiced its support for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Renewal and Improvement Act of 2024 and credits the bill with creating hundreds of thousands of direct jobs in Africa and the US. The AGOA Renewal and Improvement Act of 2024 which was introduced by Senators Chris Coons and James Risch would extend the bill for 16 years until 2041 and continue to boost Africa’s duty-free status as...

18 April 2024

US apparel and footwear industry supports 16 year AGOA renewal

The American Apparel & Footwear Association applauds Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator James Risch (R-ID) for introducing the AGOA Renewal and Improvement Act of 2024.Currently set to expire in September 2025, AGOA is a pivotal trade preference program that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market, fostering economic growth and opportunity between the U.S. and eligible African countries. This program is the cornerstone of...

11 April 2024

US senators introduce bill to renew Africa trade pact through 2041 [Download copy]

A bipartisan group of senators will introduce a bill to renew the United States' trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa ahead of its expiration next year, an aide to one of the senators said on Thursday.  [    Download it here and download a summary here] The bill was introduced by Senators Chris Coons, a Democrat, and James Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A cross-party group of...

11 April 2024

US manufacturing subsidies for Africa could help revive AGOA

Experts at the Center for Global Development argue that the unconventional approach could bring billions in new trade opportunities and would fit with US “friend-shoring” efforts. The US should pay ‘negative tariffs’ in Africa – essentially targeted manufacturing subsidies – to help revive its faltering African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),  according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Global...

05 April 2024

US and African civil society stakeholders seek AGOA extension

A Civil Society Organisation, Network and other stakeholders from across the United States and African Growth and Opportunity Act-eligible countries have petitioned the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, to consider an extension of the initiative. The CSO made the plea in a letter dated February 16, 2024, titled ‘Petition for Timely Re-Authorisation and Enhancement of the African Growth and Opportunity Act Beyond...

16 February 2024

House Ways and Means Committee leadership statement on meeting with ambassadors from select AGOA countries

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) and Ranking Member Richard E. Neal (MA-01) released the following statement after hosting a bipartisan roundtable with Committee members and ambassadors from several African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) countries. AGOA is a U.S. trade program focused on strengthening economic ties between the United States and nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We appreciate the ambassadors from...

18 January 2024

WEF - How has AGOA benefited African countries?

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a trade agreement between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries. Agoa has helped to increase trade and investment between Africa and the US. It has also helped to create jobs and boost economic growth in Africa. African countries are calling for it to be extended. To what extent has the AGOA goal been achieved? The duty- and quota-free access to the US market granted by Agoa...

16 November 2023

South Africa’s AGOA forum: Crafting future pathways for US-Africa trade partnership

Ultimately the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) could be extended by 16 years, that means until 2041, indicating its importance for strengthening Africa’s trade and economic cooperation with United States. That was, in fact, the main focus during Johannesburg’s early November forum that brought together more than 30 trade ministers, astute investors plus representatives from the regional economic blocs and the African Union. At...

14 November 2023

Africa-US trade: AGOA expires in 2025 - what has it achieved in 23 years?

African governments are seeking an extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) beyond 2025. The law was enacted in 2000 to “encourage increased trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa”. We asked David Luke, who specialises in African trade policy and trade negotiations, what benefits Agoa has brought for qualifying African countries and how it can...

12 November 2023

US Senator Chris Coons proposes AGOA extension by 16 years, immediate review of SA’s AGOA eligibility

Powerful US Democratic Party Senator Chris Coons is circulating a discussion draft of a Bill to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) for 16 years that would also require an immediate “out-of-cycle” review of South Africa’s eligibility for Agoa. That could lead to South Africa being removed next year from the programme, which has provided considerable benefits to SA exporters to the US of cars, fruits and wine, in...

07 November 2023

You are here: Home/News/Article/US-Africa trade deal turns 25 next year: AGOA's winners, losers and what should come next