Accra, 2 May 2018 (ECA) - Over 40 delegates from 33 African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) countries were joined by representatives from the regional economic communities, the private sector, U.S government officials, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and trade experts in Accra, Ghana for the AGOA Capacity Building and Skills Development Workshop.
The workshop was organized by the ECA African Trade Policy Center, the African Union Commission, and the Government of Ghana.
The five-day workshop was opened by Alan Kyerematen, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry who in welcoming the participants, commended the organizers for what he deemed an important and much-needed exercise. He highlighted the relevance and important timing of the workshop.
“This workshop could not have come at a better time. For us in Africa, this workshop is coming on the heels of the recently executed agreement establishing the CFTA.”
“Even though the primary objective of this AfCFTA is to enhance intra-African trade, another key objective of this initiative is to promote regional value chains and to help African countries work together to exploit international markets like the one offered by the United States,” he added.
Ambassador Arikana Chihombori Quao, AUC Permanent Representative to the United States who also spoke at the opening expressed hope that the workshop will increase the practical skills and expertise of participants to develop national AGOA utilization strategies and enhance the utilization rate of the preferential program by the beneficiary countries.
Highlighting the role of the private sector, Charles Kahuthu, CEO of the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (EACCIA) suggested that the workshop will help participants better understand which value chains bear the highest potential and strongest comparative advantage for specific African countries.
Representing The United States, USAID West Africa Director, Alex Deprez, emphasized that “AGOA continues to function as the framework for the US - Africa trade and economic relationship, combined with the generalized system of preferences, virtually all goods produced in AGOA eligible countries can enter the US market duty-free. This is not a preference easily given into the US market.”
On behalf of ECA David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Center noted the considerable opportunities offered by AGOA and underscored the workshop as a “call to action” for African countries to step up and strategically take advantage of AGOA for promoting trade, investment, and contributing to industrial development in Africa.
He urged the United States private sector to step up its investment in the AGOA beneficiary countries as the evidence shows that investment is closely tied to the effective utilization of the preferential trade regime.
As AGOA will expire in 2025, the workshop aimed to ensure that the remaining period of the AGOA legislation is optimized to allow for enhanced utilization of the benefits and is used as a critical stepping stone for developing competitiveness, trade, and productive capacities.
To this end, participants were required to indicate the priority actions to be undertaken on their return to their respective countries. ECA in partnership with the African Union Mission to the United States will monitor follow up including through the annual AGOA review process.
“Let us use this workshop as a turning point that for the next seven years we can make something happen, to take advantage of AGOA,” urged Mr. Kyerematen as the workshop commenced.
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