The AGOA Forum
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Every year an AGOA Forum is held, which brings together government leaders and private sector stakeholders from Africa and the United States. The Eighth AGOA Forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya, August 4-6, 2009. The theme of this year’s Forum is “Realizing the Full Potential of AGOA through Expansion of Trade and Investment.” The Forum focused on a number of crucial trade and economic issues, including but not limited to how countries can take full advantage of the range of export opportunities that AGOA offers. The Forum is held in Washington every other year; and in an AGOA eligible African country in the other years. So far, the Forum has been held three times in Washington, and once in Mauritius, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya in 2009.

What is AGOA?
AGOA provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods, expanding the benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The eligibility criterion was based on improving labour rights and movement toward market-based economies in AGOA eligible countries and improves political and economic governance. Each year, the sub-Saharan African countries are evaluated and thereafter,
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it is determined which countries should remain eligible. Currently (August 2009), there are 41 AGOA-eligible countries. AGOA provides beneficiary countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with the most liberal access to the U.S. market available to any country or region with which we do not have a Free Trade Agreement. By creating tangible incentives for African countries to implement economic and commercial reform policies, AGOA contributes to better market opportunities and stronger commercial partners in Africa for U.S. companies. This helps to forge stronger commercial ties between Africa and the United States, while at the same time it aims to integrate Africa into the global economy. U.S. firms may find new opportunities in privatizations of African state-owned enterprises or in partnership with African companies in infrastructure and other developmental projects.

Source: www.agoa.gov ; www.agoaforumkenya.go.ke

Countries Eligible for AGOA Benefits.
The countries that are eligible for AGOA include the following:-
Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Chad; Comoros; Republic of Congo; Democratic Republic of Congo; Djibouti; Ethiopia; Gabon; The Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tome and Principe; Senegal; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; South Africa; Swaziland; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia.

AGOA/ GSP Product Eligibility
While AGOA is often synonymous with preferential garment exports, the fact remains that AGOA opens the US market to a large number of African-sourced goods that are able to enter the United States free of import duty. The eligibility criteria for GSP and AGOA substantially overlap, and countries must be GSP eligible in order to receive AGOA’s trade benefits including both expanded GSP and the apparel provisions. Although GSP eligibility does not imply AGOA eligibility, 47 of the 48 Sub-Saharan African countries are currently GSP eligible. AGOA authorizes duty-free treatment under GSP to AGOA eligible countries for more than 1,800 tariff line items in addition to the standard GSP list of approximately 4,600 items available to non-AGOA GSP beneficiary countries. AGOA will extend GSP for eligible Sub-Saharan African beneficiaries until September 30, 2015. Sub-Saharan African beneficiary countries are also exempted from competitive need limitations which cap the GSP benefits available to beneficiaries in other regions. Note that many items that are indicated as "not eligible" for AGOA are still exempt from import duty if they are indicated as "eligible" under GSP, or their statutory import duty is zero. If a product is eligible under the GSP or Most Favoured Nations (MFN), it enters the United States duty-free.

How AGOA benefited African Countries
AGOA has shown a lot of growth in the textile and apparel industry specifically, but some AGOA countries have begun to export new products to the United States, such as cut flowers, horticultural products, tea, coffee, commercial crafts and leather products, hand loomed and handmade products. While Nigeria and Angola are the largest exporters under AGOA, South Africa's have been the most diverse and not mainly concentrated in afew sectors and have broadened their horizons into energy, automotives and
steel. To some countries, including Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya and Madagascar, AGOA remains of critical importance. Agricultural products is a promising area for AGOA trade, however much work needs to be done to assist African countries in meeting U.S. sanitary and phyosanitary standards. The U.S. government is providing technical assistance to AGOA eligible countries to help them benefit from the legislation, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other agencies. The U.S. government has established three regional trade hubs in Africa for this purpose, in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; and Nairobi, Kenya.

Source: www.agoa.gov ; www.agoaforumkenya.go.ke

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