TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Comesa launches AGOA linkage pilot programme

Friday, 18 October 2002

Source: Engineering News (SA)

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has started a new programme to assist companies in its member states to export their products to the US market under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

The pilot phase of the programme targets five countries out of the 13 Agoa-eligible countries in the 20-member trade bloc.

The five countries which have been selected for the pilot phase of the project, dubbed the Agoa Linkages in Comesa (ALINC), include Malawi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

ALINC programme manager Moses Simemba says his programme will work with a number of institutions promoting export and business ventures in the selected countries in a bid to identify companies with the potential to export to the US market.

Under the programme, whose pilot phase will run for 18 months, potential companies producing for export markets will be linked to US buyers. The programme will also facilitate experts in different disciplines from the US being brought to the selected countries to assist potential companies to improve the quality and quantity of production at no cost.

Simemba says the ALINC staff, which is based at the Comesa secretariat in the Zambian capital city Lusaka, will work hand in hand with the Agoa head office in Washington, in the US, to implement the programme.

He says the main purpose of the programme is to improve the level of export transactions between African sellers and US buyers through information sharing, industry evaluation, sales and marketing assistance, technical support and mentoring.

"We are trying to provide a fast-track process for these countries' exports into the US. In such a way, Agoa will serve as a catalyst for increasing exports from eligible sub-Saharan African countries," says Simemba.

The programme, which is tipped to overcome the hurdles encountered by exporters to get access to the US market, is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and managed by the International Executive Corps.

Comesa senior investment promotion officer Watipaso Mkandawire says the trade bloc expects to extend the programme to other Comesa member states when it succeeds in the initially-selected countries.

"It is very important that each country selected sees the seriousness of this programme," says Mkandawire.

The pilot phase of the programme, which will run for 18 months, is expected to come to an end in December 2003.

Meanwhile, 12 Malawian companies are expected to benefit in the first phase.

A Malawi government arm for the promotion of investment in the country, the Malawi Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA) has been carrying out the selection of Malawian companies.

MIPA investment promotion manager Susan Banda says preselecting of companies is based on a company's record and competence.

Malawi is one of the African countries which is experiencing a rise in exports to the US market since it got approval to export to the remote market under Agoa.

The country has exported products worth $5,5-million to the US market since the US approved its Agoa application in 2000 as compared to only $800,000, the total export quantity before its inception into the facility.

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