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Big Push to Move AGOA Beyond Textiles

Published date:
Wednesday, 20 July 2005

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced a new programme to boost African farm produce exports on Tuesday as part of efforts to widen the range of products the poorest continent sells onto global markets.

Johanns made the announcement at a meeting in Senegal with the 37 beneficiaries of the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) whose impact in the poorest, non-oil producing countries has so far focused largely on textile exports.

He said the joint programme between his U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would improve agricultural pest monitoring in Africa to ease exports of fruit and other fresh produce.

The programme builds on existing schemes to develop African expertise in agriculture and related technologies, including pest control, monitoring and risk assessment, he said.

"Before your countries can export raw agricultural plant products, you must be able to meet international phytosanitary standards of importing countries," said Johanns, former state governor of Nebraska.

Cindy Courville, special assistant to President George W. Bush and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council, told Tuesday's meeting Africa must transform its subsistence farming into a "vibrant commercial agriculture sector".

Agricultural exports from AGOA countries to the United States topped $1 billion in 2004, 41 percent higher than when the scheme was launched in 2000, Johanns said.

But growth in exports of agricultural produce -- the mainstay of many of the continent's poorest economies -- have lagged growth in oil shipments. Overall AGOA exports to the United States shot up by 88 percent in 2004 but the non-oil component was up a more moderate 22 percent.

A key focus of this week's meeting in Senegal's capital Dakar is how to ensure African countries take better advantage of the AGOA legislation, which gives preferential access to the U.S. market for some 6,000 products.

In a recorded speech to the conference on Monday Bush announced a separate Africa Global Competitiveness Initiative which also aims to make AGOA more effective.

USAID assistant administrator for Africa Lloyd Pierson said the initiative would involve the announcement within the next week of a fourth regional trade hub to add to existing hubs in Botswana, Kenya and Ghana.

The hubs would promote increased trade under the AGOA provisions by supplying better information about business opportunities in Africa and improving communication with potential partners in the United States, Pierson said.

Lasting five years, the new initiative would receive more than double the $70 million funding allotted for the previous four-year programme, he added.

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