President Ramaphosa calls for substantial lengthening of AGOA

Friday, November 3, 2023
President Ramaphosa addresses 20th AGOA Forum.

An extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for a longer period of time can act as an instrument to entice investors to pour more resources into the African continent.

“We would like you to look at the extension or renewal of AGOA for a sufficiently lengthy period for it to act as an incentive for investors to build new factories on the African continent.

“As we were going around talking to a number of product producers, the recurring message and word I heard is ‘we can do more…if this opportunity is extended and we can build more capacity if we have certainty that yes, the period of extension will be longer’.

“Shorter periods of extension impede investment ambitions and we therefore want to see a much lengthier period of extension. The United States and Africa… are going to be here for a long time. We are here for the long haul so let us make AGOA a long haul opportunity for all of us,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa at the opening of the AGOA Forum, currently underway at Nasrec in Johannesburg.

The President reflected on the successes that have been made under AGOA for African countries.

“When excluding exports of crude oil under AGOA, the data show that the programme has substantially improved the export competitiveness of certain African products, especially textiles and apparel.

“Apparel exports from Lesotho, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Madagascar and Kenya have not only led to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs but these countries have become reliable producers for American consumers.

“Other parts of manufacturing have also seen success under AGOA. South Africa’s auto exports to the United States under AGOA have contributed to job creation in South Africa and in the auto supply chain within neighbouring countries.

“We value the relationship with the United States, the world’s largest national market, and a country with which we have relationships that go well beyond trade. The African Growth and Opportunity Act – or AGOA – has served as the cornerstone of the US-Africa commercial relationship for more than two decades,” President Ramaphosa said.

Africa on the rise

President Ramaphosa told the forum that trading has been in the DNA of Africans for thousands of years – predating colonial oppression.

“From earlier times, our forebears were already trading not only within Africa but with the rest of the world. They traded right across the continent… but they also traded with the world. Trading is part of our DNA; it is in our blood and it is this trading that we want to modernise and we look for partners to support us in this development as we modernise our trading practices and relations,” he said.

As the continent continues to modernise its trading, it is moving away from being a supplier of raw materials to a producer of ready-made consumer products.

“Africa is an important source of critical raw materials but we do not want to be defined by simply being the producers of commodities. The great industrial opportunity lies instead in the transformation of the rocks that we mine and the metal that we produce into the sophisticated industrial and consumer goods that societies across the world need.

“Gone should be the days when Africa is just seen as a source of rock, soil and dust being exported out of our continent. We now want to produce the products that are finished or near finished, which are utilised in other parts of the world. We want to earn full value for our products,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said he remains concerned about the negative effects that trade restrictions on products like steel, aluminium or citrus fruit have on AGOA utilisation rates.

“We hope that the discussions at this forum will help lay the basis for these to be addressed in future.”

The President said more targeted efforts to promote greater levels of investment can help to unlock AGOA’s opportunities.

The purpose of the forum is to discuss ways to expand trade and investment relations between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, and the implementation of AGOA, including encouraging joint ventures between small and large businesses. -