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Congresswoman Bass reinforces need for capacity building in Africa

Congresswoman Bass reinforces need for capacity building in Africa
Rep. Karen Bass
Published date:
Friday, 24 June 2016
Shehnaz Rangwala

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) co-hosted an Africa Policy Breakfast on the first anniversary of AGOA’s reauthorization, “Refocusing on Capacity Building,” to discuss why capacity building is important to AGOA eligible countries and what needs to be done to help them take full advantage of AGOA’s benefits.

The forum was opened by Rep. Bass who expressed her continuing support for AGOA and introduced the forum’s diplomatic panel.

Presenters included H.E. Professor Molapi Sebatane, Ambassador of Lesotho; H.E. Daouda Diabate, Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire; H.E. Oliver Wonekha, Ambassador of Uganda; Velotiana Raobelina, Charge d’affaires, Embassy of Madagascar; and Sandile Tyini, Economic Minister, Embassy of South Africa. Dr. Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director, Africa Growth Initiative, at the Brookings Institution provided an economic analysis of Africa’s economies.

Walker Williams, President and CEO of Leadership Africa USA, presented the first speech and stated that, “Funding for human and trade capacity building and technical assistance initiatives are key development priorities.” He called for a formal Capacity Building Initiative, suggesting Capacity Africa, along the lines of Trade Africa and Power Africa to “leverage private investment, create employment opportunities, and encourage new investments.”

A key topic of discussion during the forum was industrialization for Africa’s future, not commodities. The dignitaries explained how each of their countries were in various stages of industrialization and did see it as an end-goal for AGOA. They said that capacity building is critical to successful industrialization.

Mr. Williams recommended that African governments include trade capacity building in all of their priority investments. It is also important to understand cultural difference and incorporate them into planning and implementing trade strategies. We need the U.S. government’s support for trade development facilitation to be better coordinated to address capacity building practices in Africa.

Rep. Bass reminded participants that the AGOA Enhancement Act of 2015, which is meant, in part, to address capacity building in AGOA eligible countries, is still moving forward. She invited the dignitaries to offer their observations as to what should be added to the bill to help ensure that their goals towards capacity building are met. She also said that during the upcoming Congressional Black Caucus in September 2016, she will help ensure that Africa’s development remains a priority for the next administration.

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