Today kicks off our new blog series, Trade = Development. Follow along to learn how African exports to the US are helping to improve the lives of thousands of African producers. In this piece, Tom Hart discusses the importance of AGOA.
The event next week is the annual gathering of leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) -– the primary policy facilitating trade between Africa and the United States. AGOA became US law in 2000 to create special access to US markets for African products, and key stakeholders meet every year to discuss how to improve ways to increase and improve US-Africa trade.
Here at ONE, we spend a lot of time working for US funding for programs we know deliver results in the fight against poverty and disease, like HIV/AIDS, vaccines and agriculture. But we also know the key to promoting sustainable economic development on the continent is to enable Africa to trade with us. Right now, most African products coming into the US are either 1) mineral, such as oil, precious metals and stones, or 2) basic agricultural products such as raw cotton, cocoa and coffee beans etc. AGOA allows African producers to process some of these products for more profit and export them directly to the United States without incurring the kinds of tariffs that make it impossible to make any profit. This means they can provide for their families without depending on their government and ours, and also employ others, in a virtuous cycle of prosperity.
A few examples of African products in the US…
- Whole Foods carries marmalade made in Lesotho.
- Target and Gap sell jeans made in Madagascar.
- Many stores carry yoga-wear made in Liberia from Pranha
- The Body Shop sells shea butter made by women in Ghana and Mali.
- Our own ONE T-shirts (find them at the ONE Store) are made in Uganda and imported through AGOA.
This important trade policy has facilitated importation of more than $4 billion worth of African products, not including oil, into the US each year and helped provide jobs and grow the economies of several African countries. It has increased investment in the manufacturing industries on the continent and most importantly increased family incomes and reduction of poverty in many communities. For Americans, it means more choices and new products, and with the continued growth of African economies, new markets for American products, which is good for our economic recovery and US job creation.
Over the next 10 days, we’ll be sharing some stories on the ONE blog on why AGOA is important, what is happening at the conference in Lusaka and why TRADE = DEVELOPMENT.