US forges ahead to build stronger relations with Africa under AGOA

Friday, November 3, 2023
United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai with South Africa's Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel.

Amid challenging global economic circumstances, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai believes there is an opportunity to shape a stronger, new and forward-looking vision for United States-Africa trade, where more segments of society are brought in.

"[A vision] where, as President [Joe] Biden would say, ‘the benefits are realised from the bottom up and the middle out,” Tai told delegates on Friday.

In the words of Tai, the United States remains a committed partner as Africa continues this journey.

Tai was speaking at the three-day African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum currently underway at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.

“As President Biden said at the US-Africa Leaders' Summit last December, ‘the United States is all in on Africa’.” 

African Continental Free Trade Area

Tai, who is the principal trade advisor and spokesperson on United States trade policy, announced that her country backs the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the US-AfCFTA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation for Trade and Investment. 

This comes after the AfCFTA Secretary General, Wamkele Mene, and Tai signed the MoU during the summit.

“We created four Technical Working Groups, and the US government is providing approximately $160 million to support the negotiation and implementation of the AfCFTA,” Tai said. 

This includes support from the United States Agency for International Development, the US Department of Agriculture, and Prosper Africa.

“The United States is here to build and enhance our relationships so that more Africans can enjoy the benefits of economic growth, to empower workers and their communities, and to build fair and equitable societies, not just for today, but for years to come,” Tai said.

She has since called on all stakeholders to work together to further unlock the potential of the partnership to pursue sustainable and equitable growth, especially for women, youth and the African diaspora.

The representative said she was looking to talk about improving utilisation rates, exploring additional trade tools to complement the AGOA relationship, implementing the AfCFTA, and better use of the multilateral trading system for the benefit of underserved groups. 

“All of you in this room play such an important part in fully realising this vision. No one government can get there alone, and that is the power of this forum. A committed and thoughtful community with a common goal of strengthening our US-African trade and investment relationship.”

Tai described AGOA as a vehicle for workers and businesses across Africa.

“This is important, as all of us continue our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.”

She also shifted her focus to challenges following the pandemic that battered economies, climate crisis, growing inequality and economic insecurity.

“But there have also been positive developments,” Tai said.

The green shoots, she said include trading under the AfCFTA since January 2021 and African Union joining G20 in September this year. 

Tai cited the African Development Bank’s report that stated that five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are projected to be in Africa.

She singled out South Africa, which is ranked one of the largest AGOA users, with the country being the top exporter in 2022, with $3.6 billion in exports. 

“South Africa is leading the continent on other aspects as well, including through its clear commitment to human rights.”

She noted that the total goods imported into the United States under AGOA was about $10 billion in 2022, a significant increase compared to $6.8 billion in 2021.

Meanwhile, the non-petroleum imports –  major sources of new investment and jobs in Africa, went up to $5.7 billion in 2022, from $5 billion in 2021.

“The programme has fostered economic growth and development on the continent to increase investment and to create new jobs and opportunities,” Tai said.  –