AGOA, AfCFTA can be complementary

Friday, November 3, 2023
Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Wamkele Mene.

Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Wamkele Mene, says the United States of America's African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative and the AfCFTA can be complementary and supportive trade initiatives.

He was speaking at a media briefing on the side lines of the ongoing AGOA forum held in Johannesburg.

At its core, the American driven AGOA is aimed at enhancing market access for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa while the African Union’s AfCFTA is aimed at significantly boosting and enhancing intra-trade across all African states.

“An example of how that alignment can take place is if you look at the protocol on investment which establishes enhanced legal rights for investors but also enables countries to regulate investment inflows in the public interest. 

“Similarly in the area of intellectual property rights. The US TR [United States Trade Representative] under Ambassador [Katherine Chi Tai] has been very clear that they support reforms of the global patent system so that it is at the service of public health and at the service, in our case as the continent, at the service of industrial development and job creation. 

“These are some of the principles, we believe, should be considered where we are to have a discussion about trade and investment between AGOA eligible countries and the United States. These are some of the complementarities [between AGOA and the AfCFTA] that can be explored,” he said.

Mene said the continent must be “cautious not to create fragmentation within the AfCFTA as we implement AGOA”.

“In the AfCFTA there are countries in North Africa who are state parties to the agreement establishing the AfCFTA. There are also countries that are within AGOA eligibility. So that fragmentation, we have got to address it so that we don’t reverse the gains that we are making in integrating the economy of the African continent. 

“I’m very encouraged that the US is willing to listen and is sensitive to this need to progress on integration,” he said at the session.

The Secretary General was emphatic when asked about the possibility of AGOA becoming an obstacle for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“It’s a technical issue. I don’t think it’s really a political issue, it’s a technical issue about how we make that legal technical alignment between the rules of the AfCFTA and AGOA.

“We are taking measures to ensure that the implementation of AGOA supports industrial development, supports regional integration [and] supports the objectives of the AfCFTA,” he concluded. –