The second African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Civil Society Session took place in Washington in early December, drawing representatives from U.S. and sub-Saharan African non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The session, which came as part of the third U.S. subSaharan Africa trade and Economic cooperation forum, acknowledged the successes that have been achieved under AGOA.
These successes include the creation of thousands of jobs in some AGOA-eligible countries and are involved in helping to engage those countries into the global economy especially through access to the U.S. market. While acknowledging these accomplishments, participants agreed that more work must be done to promote more effective trade avenues and assure a broader impact.
Recommendations from the Civil Society Session were as follows:
1. As the primary trade-promotion instrument between the United States and Africa, AGOA should be extended through the year 2025 and its third-country fabric provision through 2010. Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure market access and competitiveness of AGOA-eligible countries beyond the phasing-out of the country quota under the World Trade Organization agreement on textiles and clothing.
2. Any extension of the present AGOA policy must include input from African governmental and non-governmental organizations in formulating African trade and development policies.
3. Any expertise and technological skills that might enable participating countries, as well as countries with an interest in AGOA, to meet value-added requirements for agricultural products, should be provided.
4. Every AGOA-eligible country should have an AGOA action plan based on a partnership among civil society, the government, and the private sector and aimed at full participation in the benefits of AGOA. This, with an eye toward enabling African countries to meet international standards and become more competitive in the international global market.
5. AGOA needs to be expanded to encourage African countries to look beyond petroleum in their quest for development. To this end, the Forum recognizes a need for expansion in the areas of agriculture, light industry, information technology, tourism, the service and technology sectors and logistics.
6. The AGOA must address the lack of access to credit suffered by supporting institutions that create internationally recognized banking and crediting opportunities to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.
7. Institutions essential to effective trade must be created and strengthened. These institutions include those promoting public/private partnerships, as well as judicial and human rights reform in AGOA participating countries.
8. African governments must create environments that encourage foreign investment by promoting political stability, security, independent judiciaries and effective banking institutions that contribute to the establishment of economic pluralism in Africa.
9. Good corporate governance and an investment in human resource development must be promoted to ensure that trade benefits are diffused throughout African societies.
10. The AGOA Civil Society Network should work with the appropriate U.S. institutions and agencies, especially USAID, USTA, USTDA, USTR and USDC to support African-led civic organizations that promote AGOA goals and objectives.
11. The AGOA Civil Society network will work with the AU to ensure that African countries take full advantage of AGOA provisions with a focus on intra-Africa trade and the eradication of HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
12. To encourage the U.S. government to provide for more equitable trading opportunities for Africa, the United States, European Union and Japan must collectively eliminate subsidies and quotas and all forms of trade protection and allow the laws of comparative advantage in a free market system create a level playing field that can allow for African participation.
13. Additional efforts, such as the effort lead by Miami-Dade County to target small to medium sized businesses both of which have much to gain from AGOA must be encouraged.
14. More direct flights and direct sea routes between Africa and the United States must be established to facilitate and ease the process of bilateral trade activity.
15. AGOA should include in-country trade shows aimed at bringing together buyers and sellers to create an environment conducive to trade.
16. Civil society should continue to promote female-owned and, otherwise, underrepresented businesses, as well as good corporate governance, transparency, accountability, anti-corruption activities and the rule of law throughout Africa, through educational and technical capacity-building programs.
17. Civil society must develop appropriate mechanisms for monitoring eligibility and compliance and track the impact of trade on the masses of people of Africa and the United States. Centers of Excellence and Innovation in the Sciences and Technology developed in African universities and colleges must become resources for conducting research and applying indigenous knowledge.
18. Civil society must support the AGOAs full implementation through advocacy, capacity-building and technical assistance. Capacity-building must include training on international standards and best practices.
19. The Civil Society Network must work with regional HUBS in Ghana, Botswana and South Africa to promote the dissemination of information and capacity-building.
20. Civil society organizations should encourage U.S. investment in Africa, as well as the repatriation of both human and financial African Diaspora assets.
21. The Civil Society Network should continue to promote AGOA and work to mobilize the technically skilled African Diaspora community to support AGOA-aimed initiatives.