The U.S., Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade forum, set to begin in South Africa, is expected to focus on the extension of the U.S. program allowing sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets. U.S. officials, including Ambassador Tai and Secretary of State Basu, will meet with African leaders in Johannesburg to discuss AGOA extension and enhance its benefits for African nations.
AGOA, which was last extended in 2015, allows sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the U.S. market provided they meet certain conditions, including adherence to the rule of law and human rights protection. The forum kicks off days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced his intention to remove Niger, Uganda, Central African Republic, and Gabon from the list of beneficiaries due to non-compliance with eligibility criteria. South Africa’s trade minister, Ebrahim Patel, has expressed support for the extension of AGOA, citing its significant benefits to its businesses exporting to the U.S.
Biden criticized Niger, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Gabon for not complying with the African Union for the Protection of Human Rights (AGOA) eligibility criteria. He cited their failure to protect political pluralism and the rule of law as violations of international human rights. The US suspended most financial assistance to Gabon after a military coup earlier this year.
In May, Biden threatened to remove Uganda from AGOA and impose sanctions following the passing of an anti-gay law. Uganda’s government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, dismissed the expected impact of Uganda’s AGOA delisting, stating that sanctions-hit Cuba and Iran have offered more to the world than many African AGOA beneficiaries. However, Ugandan officials, including President Yoweri Museveni, have seen AGOA as a beneficial program. South Africa’s continued participation in AGOA came under scrutiny this year, with US lawmakers questioning its eligibility due to allegations of supplying Russia with arms during its war with Ukraine. South Africa has been cleared of providing arms to Russia by an inquiry appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.