West Africa: US and West African countries work towards trade deal

West Africa: US and West African countries work towards trade deal

The United States is working with West African countries to reach a trade and investment agreement that supports efforts at economic growth and integration as American companies increasingly look toward Africa for business opportunities.

U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told AllAfrica that discussions on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) took place last week during a visit to Washington of four African leaders, including three from West Africa.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde and President Joyce Banda of Malawi also met with President Barack Obama.

The United States already has similar trade agreements with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU/UEMOA) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Trade and investment are a key part of the president’s strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa. The region presents promising opportunities for the American private sector, U.S. officials say. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa, and U.S. total merchandise exports to the region tripled between 2001 and 2011, according to the World Bank.

Marantis called last week’s trade talks “very robust” and highlighted TIFA discussions as well as talks about how the four nations could take better advantage of the opportunities offered under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). The act, signed into law in 2000, offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.

He said the geographical proximity of some countries, such as Senegal and other West African coastal nations, should make it easier to build the trade relationship with the United States.

“Through bilateral and regional work through TIFA, I think the mutual goal will be how to grow and take advantage of the positive geography to help grow the trade relationship with these countries,” Marantis said.

For example, he noted products such as groundnuts, or peanuts, and peanut oil.

“Something that all four heads of state emphasized – they want trade,” Marantis said. “They view trade and investment as a fundamental component of their strategies for building their economies, creating economic opportunities and jobs.”

But he said that leaders talked about challenges that they have in helping their exporters take advantage of the Agoa opportunities.

“There is a lot of potential with a lot of products,” Marantis said.

“What we need to do now is work with these four countries on an Agoa strategy and that will really enable them to take advantage of the opportunities that Agoa provides.”

Marantis said trade officials and the African leaders also discussed the “borderless initiatives” facilitated by USAID. The efforts are built around trade hubs in Accra, Botswana, and Nairobi to help address supply chain choke points to further support trade.

Additionally, officials also discussed how to support women traders, who make up the majority of African merchants. It is a priority of Malawi’s President Banda, Marantis said.

A number of the women who are making products for export, such as jams, jellies and handicrafts, have been working through the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which is designed to empower women entrepreneurs. The program was established in Malawi last month.

“It has been successful in bringing women from across the continent together to share in the successes and challenges of exporting to the United States,” Marantis said.

Aside from trade, Marantis said the most significant outcome of the talks was the commitment by the four heads of state to join the Open Government Partnership by the end of 2014. It is a voluntary, multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and strengthen governance through new technologies.

View related news articles

Sierra Leone mining dispute threatens US firms

The decision by Sierra Leone to shut down the operations of U.S.-owned SL Mining has called into question that government’s commitment to the rule of law with regard to foreign investors. Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. Government has initiated various programs to boost U.S.-Africa trade and investment – from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to the Prosper Africa initiative that was launched in 2018. The success of these...

17 April 2021

Sierra Leone to launch its AGOA response strategy

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an initiative of the United States Government, allows low-income countries to access the US market on very favourable trade terms.  The implementation of the new AGOA Strategy will allow Sierra Leone to benefit from duty free access to US markets when exporting products produced in the country.  The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in collaboration with the International Growth...

11 February 2019

Sierra Leone: Workshops offer training before Sierra Leone’s AGOA national strategy launch

Ahead of Sierra Leone’s U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) strategy launch, two Trade Hub-hosted workshops for national officials focused on AGOA standards and other customs procedures. The Freetown trainings, hosted on November 15 and 16, attracted participants from Sierra Leone’s Department of Foreign Trade, the Executive Office of the Permanent Secretary, and the Department of Domestic Commerce and Trade at the Ministry of...

28 November 2017

Sierra Leone: Trade opportunities opened with the US

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, to stimulate economic growth, to encourage economic integration, and to facilitate sub-Saharan Africa’s integration into the global economy. The Act establishes the annual U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Economic Cooperation Forum (known as the AGOA Forum) to promote...

13 September 2017

Sierra Leone News: Private sector yet to benefit from AGOA trade

Since the African Growth an Opportunity Act (AGOA) was launched by United States Government 17-years ago to promote industrialization, Sierra Leonean based companies are yet to export their produce to the US market due lack of proper documentation and certification. However, the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (SLCCIA) has engaged private sector executives on the Africa Growth Act (AGOA) documentation and certification of local...

18 July 2017

American Business Council launched in Sierra Leone

The American Business Council of Sierra Leone (ABC) has recently been officially launched as a forum for United States and Sierra Leonean companies to strengthen commercial ties between the two countries. The American Business Council according to Scott Risner Economic and Commercial Officer Embassy of the United States of America in Sierra Leone will engage local businesses and the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Trade and...

12 June 2017

Nigeria: AGOA a vital boost for Aba leather, garment cluster

In a bid to enhance the industrial value of manufacturers in Abia State, Fidelity Bank, in collaboration with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and Ghana-based West African Trade and Investment (WATI) hub recently held a capacity building workshop on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to sensitise the Aba leather and garment cluster on essential services targeted to build their businesses. Amby Uneze reports. As part of...

27 April 2017

Nigeria: Experts canvass measures to boost non-oil export through AGOA

Nigeria’s current economic situation, particularly the disparity between naira and U.S. dollar present huge opportunities that must force government and stakeholders to boost non-oil exportation through  the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), experts have said. The experts spoke on Tuesday, at a training organised in Lagos by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), to reverse Nigeria’s poor participation in the...

06 April 2017

Liberia: AGOA to help local entrepreneurs enter US market

A one-day informational session on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which aimed to help local entrepreneurs enter the United States market with value-added products, has ended in Monrovia. The forum, which brought together over 50 entrepreneurs in agriculture and business, was organized by the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC) and Building Markets in collaboration with USAID and the West African Trade and Investment...

27 January 2017

Sierra Leone: Local producers trained on AGOA trade benefits

The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub yesterday organized a one day sensitization workshop for executives of local companies at the Hub Hotel Wilberforce in Freetown. Sharka Kawa Export Development Officer of SLIEPA spoke about the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and it export...

25 January 2017

US moves to boost AGOA in West Africa

The U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment (USAID)’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, on Friday said that it recently trained coordinators in West Africa to boost business and trade with the U.S. The U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria said in a statement that the coordinators were drawn from the Republics of Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal. According to it, the Coordinators are to...

15 April 2016