Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel has used his address at the 2023 Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum to galvanise the message of a united Africa that is earnestly at work to reclaim its place in the world.
The 20th AGOA Forum is currently taking place at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng, the heart of commerce and trade in South Africa. The forum brings together a large contingent of African Trade Ministers and their delegations, and over 300 delegates from the United States business sector, including the US Chamber of Commerce. Delegates from Business Unity South Africa (Busa), the Black Business Council, Business Leadership South Africa and labour representatives are also in attendance.
Patel told the gathering that Africa is embracing new ideas and ways of doing things, primarily introduced by the evolution of trade.
“For many years the continent was characterised by a network of trade routes that were used to facilitate the flow of goods among Africans trading in any products including gold, salt, beats and ivory.
“African traders crisscrossed the many lands searching for markets for their goods. Africa has strong leads with other regions, particularly the middle East. The AGOA Forum is an opportunity to renew, refresh and strengthen relationships,” Patel said.
With the advent of many innovations, including the establishment of AGOA, which promotes economic growth by fostering a stronger trade partnership between the United States and African nations, Patel said now is the time for Africa to cement its position in the world economy.
“Our trade investment project is aimed at forging economic unity of all Africans to addressing colonialism that has left Africa a small, divided nation.
“Trade is about reclaiming Africa’s place in the world. Trade has played a role in our history. It has connected and linked communities to new ideas and ways of doing things,” Patel said.
The theme for this year’s forum is, ‘Partnering to Build a Resilient, Sustainable, and Inclusive Agenda to Support Economic Development, Industrialisation and Quality Job Creation’.
Patel urged young people, some of whom are exhibiting their businesses and wares at the forum, to take up the opportunities brought on by AGOA. On the eve of the forum, Patel said about 520 firms were expected to exhibit their products at Nasrec.
He said more African countries could benefit from AGOA. Currently, 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have been designated as eligible for AGOA benefits.
“AGOA is a market access arrangement with the US Congress put in place for sub-Saharan countries, and we’ve seen trade with the US being a significant part of our trade with the world,” he said.
To qualify for AGOA, a country must first be eligible for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme. The GSP applies to 3 400 products from designated beneficiary countries, plus a further 1 450 products from least developed countries. AGOA supplements the GSP with an additional 1 835 products.
Only Sub-Saharan African countries are eligible for AGOA. The US determines whether countries have met these requirements of eligibility in Section 104 of the Act.
In order to qualify, countries must already be GSP beneficiary countries – though GSP eligibility does not imply AGOA eligibility. – SAnews.gov.za