TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Southern Africa Walks the Trade Mile

Thursday, 28 August 2003

Source: Business Report

Gaborone - Southern African countries accounted for more than 85 percent of the non-oil exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), US senate majority leader Bill Frist heard on Tuesday.

Frist and five other senators were in Botswana as guests of the government to learn about progress in co-operation between the US and southern Africa in trade development.

Their visit was a follow-up to the establishment, in June 2002, of the Southern African Global Competitiveness Hub in Gaborone, a response to President George W Bush's announcement of his trade initiative for Africa.

The hub operates throughout southern Africa.

In 2002, duty-free exports to the US had been $1.9 billion, while exports from Botswana had increased fourfold. There was, however, room for considerable further development.

Southern African manufacturers were still not sufficiently competitive in world markets and government bureaucracies continued to inhibit growth.

"We have captured the spirit and energy of the Botswana community as the people work to develop their country in the face of the challenges of the HIV/Aids epidemic," Frist said.

"We will take back to the senate and to our constituents what we have seen and learnt.

"The word that repeatedly comes to mind is 'partnership' - the partnership developed by Agoa, created in Washington DC and on which we are building here," he said.

Minister of trade Jacob Nkate said there were major challenges facing Botswana in its search for foreign investment.