Department of State Hosts 2010 AGOA Forum on U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation
Washington, DC Monday August 2, 2010
The ninth U.S.-Sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, also known as the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), will take place on August 2-3 at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., and August 4-6 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Secretary Clinton will deliver remarks at the forum on August 3 at the Ronald Reagan Building. The remarks will be open to credentialed members of the media. More details will be forthcoming in the public schedule.
The AGOA Forum will bring together more than 600 participants, including senior U.S. and African officials, as well as U.S. and African members of the private sector and civil society. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah will also participate in forum events.
This year’s forum theme, “AGOA at 10: New Strategies for a Changing World,” will focus on the linkages between private investment and economic growth in Africa and highlight ways in which African countries can best take advantage of trade opportunities under AGOA.
In conjunction with the AGOA meetings, the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) is taking place in Washington, D.C., July 26 - August 3, and Kansas City, Missouri, August 4 – 6. AWEP brings together women from AGOA-eligible countries to participate in a plenary session entitled “Integrating Africa’s Women into the Global Economy.” AWEP works to empower African women entrepreneurs to become part of their national and global business network by increasing opportunities for women to use the AGOA program, and expanding opportunities for exports and U.S. investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
AGOA represents a progressive U.S. trade and investment policy toward the continent that is reducing barriers to trade, increasing diversified exports, creating jobs and expanding opportunities for Africans. Specifically, AGOA provides trade preferences to designated countries that are making progress in economic and political reforms. There are currently 38 Sub-Saharan African countries that can take advantage of the trade benefits.
Secretary Clinton Addresses Ninth African Growth Forum
By Charles W. Corey
Washington - Africa is a continent on the rise and its story needs to be told: "Africa is open for business and ready to grow," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the ninth annual U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Forum - also known as the AGOA Forum.
In a keynote address August 3 ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2010/August/20100803185134su6.467402e-02.html ), Clinton said that in country after country she visited while in Africa to attend the last AGOA Forum, held in Nairobi, "the hope and progress that I saw are every day sweeping away old stereotypes and offering the world a new view of Africa. In small villages and sprawling cities across that diverse continent, poverty, conflict and corruption are giving way to opportunity, stability and democracy."
For example, she said, over the past 10 years, "child mortality rates have declined, while primary school enrollments have increased. More people have gained access to clean water and fewer have died in violent conflicts. More than 315 million people began using mobile phones and every day, 21st-century technology is creating new opportunities and unlocking untapped potential."
After factoring in the global financial crisis, she said, Africa's economy is expected to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent in 2011, "faster than Latin America, Central Asia's, Europe's or the United States. All of these numbers tell the story of a continent on the rise."
AFRICA HAS GREAT PROMISE
Echoing President Obama's remarks made last year in Ghana, Clinton said this is a "new moment of great promise." Africa's progress is the result of the hard work, talent and determination of people and governments across Africa, she said.
"Last year alone, two-thirds of sub-Saharan African nations implemented reforms to improve their business climates: more responsible fiscal policies coupled with increased political stability and rising productivity have spurred both growth and attracted investment," Clinton said. "The AGOA partnership has helped a growing number of African businesses build on this success at home and reach new markets abroad. Major international corporations are opening new offices in African capitals and opening their eyes to the continent's investment potential."
Despite the best intentions, however, she said that AGOA has achieved only modest results and has not lived up to the highest hopes of a decade ago. She said the United States is working to increase trade with Africa in nonpetroleum goods, though oil and related products still account for the vast majority of exports to the United States.
Clinton said challenges persist, and a cycle of conflict has left millions dead and spawned an epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence. While visiting Nigeria, Clinton said, she heard that more people are now living in poverty than 10 years ago. While sub-Saharan Africa is home to 12 percent of the world's population, it accounts for less than 2 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), she said. On some millennium goal targets such as combating disease, she added, Africa has actually lost ground in recent years.
U.S. WILL BE FRIEND AND PARTNER
Clinton said the United States is committed to being a friend and a partner in helping African nations resolve their many challenges.
Under President Obama, she said, the United States is "taking a new approach in Africa rooted in partnership, not patronage," to help nations build capacity and take responsibility and give people the tools they need to help themselves and their communities, and to empower problem solvers at all levels.
Development programs with a local focus are also being pursued by the United States to foster regional markets within Africa to boost both aid and trade effectiveness and to promote structural reforms and gradual liberalization, she added.
The Feed the Future initiative ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2010/May/20100520164738eaifas0.9879354.html ) is an example of the Obama administration's new focus on local solutions to address the root causes of hunger and poverty by investing in country-led plans, as in Rwanda and Ghana.
Clinton said the United States is taking new steps to help entrepreneurs, and in line with this, recently hosted a White House summit for entrepreneurs ( http://www.america.gov/entrepreneurship_summit.html ) from around the world. Additionally, she said the United States is entering into bilateral investment treaties that encourage market reforms and set conditions for continued growth. A bilateral investment treaty with Mozambique in 2005, she said, demonstrates how effective these agreements can be for spurring reform and growing the economy.
"Mozambique passed new reforms, protecting intellectual property rights, combating corruption and making it easier to start new businesses and trade across their borders. While more needs to be done, the country has seen a significant growth in investments and exports as a result" of such action, Clinton said.
AGOA can be a powerful engine for growth, she said, "if its trade preferences are coupled with effective development programs and reforms that build the capacity for African businesses to succeed in international markets."
"We need both trade and aid, and particularly aid that supports trade," she added.
Clinton praised the 34 women African entrepreneurs who are attending the AGOA session as part of a State Department program, and she met with those women before addressing the forum.
She said the United States hopes the U.S.-Africa trade relationship grows into a deeper and more dynamic partnership. But she added that "Africa's future belongs to Africans."
While AGOA was founded on the belief that export-driven growth would provide sustainable development and wider prosperity, she called the development of domestic and regional markets a necessary prerequisite to taking advantage of global opportunities.
SOUND INFRASTRUCTURE AND STABILITY NEEDED
Summing up, she said significant needs in infrastructure remain to be tackled, with just 30 percent of the African road network being paved. Air travel remains slow - it takes three times longer to fly from Dakar to Kinshasa than it does to fly from Dakar to Brussels, even though the distance is the same. Much of the continent still lacks sufficient electricity as well.
"If an outdated electric grid can't support a small business owner's laptop, it won't support a new factory or business center," Clinton warned. "Closing the infrastructure gap will be a heavy lift."
She also said that political instability must be eliminated and good governance promoted or economic growth will not be sufficient, saying, "Africa does not need strong men, but strong institutions."
"Today, the nations of Africa trade with each other less than any region of the world," she said, with many enforcing high tariffs and cumbersome border regulations. "It takes about a day and half to clear exports out of Namibia, but then it takes an additional 29 days for them to enter neighboring Angola."
One bright spot, however, are the countries of East Africa, she said, which includes the 127 million people of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and their combined GDP of $73 billion. In 2005, that group launched a customs union and last month declared a common market, she said. The East African community eliminated tariffs and streamlined trade and related policies within the group.
The result, she said, is that trade between East African nations has increased nearly 50 percent since the customs union was established. Investment and foreign trade have followed, with trade between the United States and that region increasing 13 percent, she added.
Source: U.S. Department of State