TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Zambia in spotlight after AGOA forum

Monday, 20 June 2011

Source: The Post Online (Zambia)

When Zambia Women in Mining chairperson Mary Lubemba heard that Zambia was selected to host the AGOA forum nine months ago, she saw countless opportunities for her association to finally access the American markets with their gems and crafts.

Zambian gemstones are rarely purchased by Americans, who prefer finished products, which are mostly made in Asia from African stones.

Expecting big links from America, Lubemba and her group was shocked to learn that actually the big saviour for the association has always been close to them – Malawi.

“The biggest earning we got from the AGOA African Growth and Opportunity Act forum was the link with women in mining from Malawi. We had very productive talks with them and we have agreed to meet this August to consolidate our work,” Lubemba said in a post-forum interview. “We also learnt from our colleagues about business principles and ethics and we will put that into practice.”

According to Lubemba, despite having some of the best gems in the world, Zambia has not earned benefits due to lack of machinery and skills for most small-scale gemstone miners.

“Most of our miners are using pick and shovel on their mines due to lack of machinery,” Lubemba said. “We would like to add value to our products by supplying finished goods to the world market that is why we have introduced training programmes for women to design jewellery. At the moment we are selling raw stones to Asia at very low prices and those people get fortunes for the finished products in America. If we are able to do our own cutting and polishing, we will get much more.”

Lubemba said apart from the fight to access the lucrative US market, the women miners were also trying to find a way of attracting Asian partners who had the technical knowledge and machinery to boost the sector.

The 2011 AGOA forum in Lusaka awakened the country to the many opportunities that it was missing out under the United States’ most generous preferential law and in the region.

Led by Heealy Mweemba, the Zambian AGOA forum organising committee faced months of long meetings, sleepless nights and a K2 trillion hosting bill. But all that was to be forgotten when, on June 8, 2011, the country got more than it bargained for in investment pledges and agreements.

By the time President Rupiah Banda and the United States trade representative ambassador Ron Kirk officially opened the forum on June 8, there were already questions of whether or not hosting the event was worth it.

It is common knowledge that Africa has not fully benefitted from AGOA, exporting just 20 eligible products from the more than 6,000 range.

The continent has also failed to attract meaningful US investments under the AGOA umbrella blaming the situation on the unpredictability and uncertainty of the program.

It was against that background of failed opportunities that Zambia invested so much to host the annual AGOA forum.

Commerce minister, Felix Mutati, assured the nation that by the time the forum concluded, Zambia would have attracted more than US$200 million worth of investments.

Mutati got it wrong.

The United States African Development Foundation (USADF) chief executive officer Lloyd Pierson committed US$300,000 in grants for two Zambian agricultural businesses, the Zambezi Organic Rice Growers Association (ZORGA) and the Chipepo Fisheries Company.

ZORGA and the Chipepo Fisheries Company both received enterprise expansion grants to increase production and improve linkages to local and regional markets.

Nearly 1,000 rural Zambian farmers and fishermen are direct beneficiaries.

Likando Mukumbuta, Zambia Agribusiness Technical Assistance Centre (ZATAC) chief executive officer and USADF’s implementing partner in Zambia, welcomed these new grassroots investments.

“We take pride in cultivating local businesses. USADF invests in people and their ideas for local growth and expansion,” Mukumbuta said on the topic.

Four other American countries announced their intentions to invest in Zambia and signed agreements with the Zambia Development Agency and other private Zambian businesses.

The total investment pledges and grants totalled US$500 million.

Apart from the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who led the negotiations team from her government, the most colourful group at the forum was the all female shine of the African

Women Entrepreneurs Program (AWEP).

Born from Hillary Clinton, the one-year old AWEP got the corner piece of the cake with its founder announcing a US$2 million grant for its programmes.

AWEP was also planted in Zambia, its new headquarters as on June 10.

Earlier, Lubemba led Clinton on a tour to sample Zambia’s gemstones.

Clinton closed the AGOA forum with a warning to African participants against corrupt practices and a promise that her administration would take to congress the motion to extend the preference law.

When all is said and done, there is no doubt that hosting the AGOA forum 2011 has put Zambia on the spotlight and opened trade doors beyond the American market.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Zambia's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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