Thursday, July 19, 2007
Ghana wants AGOA period extended
By: Samuel Amoako
PRESIDENT John Agyekum Kufour yesterday appealed to the United States government to extend the 2015 expiration date of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Initiative.
He said the eight years left for African countries to take advantage of the opportunity to export about 6,400 items, estimated at 10 trillion dollars to the US market was too short, considering the continent’s serious capacity challenges.
President Kufour made the appeal when he opened the sixth US sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Co-operation Forum in Accra.
More than 30 Ministers of Trade and representatives of civil society groups from across the sub-Saharan region are attending the forum which is under the theme “As Trade Grows, Africa Prospers: Optimizing Benefits under AGOA.”
Given the time constraints and very serious capacity challenges, President Kufour said, “Africa, we must admit, can hardly exploit the benefits of this huge initiative anywhere near to the full”.
He further appealed to Africa’s development partners in the US to design and implement a specific vehicle targeted at empowering African countries in terms of capacity building.
“This will be the surest way to render Africa competitive with other countries in the US market to grow our economies,” he said.
Nothing that, there was the tendency to see the benefits of AGOA from only the perspective of the African, he recalled President George Bush’s comments when signing the AGOA Acceleration Act in 2004 that “when America sells to Africa it means employment for somebody in America”.
He said AGOA should therefore work both ways to everyone’s advantage and urged operations in the American private sector to increase their investments in Africa to cover more areas.
Venturing into agriculture processing, manufacturing and tourism, he said, were some of the ways by which technology transfer and Africa’s capacity building could be given a boost.
“Relocation of factories and outsourcing ICT constrains to Africa could also add to capacity building to make sub-Saharan Africa, effective partners in trade,” he said.
President Kufour said the forum has provided an opportunity to bring to global attention, the tremendous changes that have taken place in Africa in recent years when the AGOA initiative was inaugurated.
In the last decade, he said, the conflicts and strife which had beset were consistently and progressively giving way to peace and reconstruction with many countries now boasting of democratically elected leaders.
Currently, he said, 39 countries are eligible for AGOA benefits, having subjected themselves to rigorous requirements for qualification.
The President said what was required of Africa now, was to develop resource with cutting edge skills and competencies, financial and material resources, appropriate infrastructure in transportation, energy and telecommunications; the combination of all of which would enable the eligible countries to effectively access the opportunities provided by AGOA.
President George Bush of US, in a message, said the world was taking note of the many positive changes taking place in Africa and the efforts being made to take advantage of the opportunities that come its way.
He reiterated America’s resolve and determination to strengthen its trade relations with Africa and gave a catalogue of agreements which have been signed to that effect.
By taking those steps, President Bush said, it was the intention of the US to help in the creation of job opportunities for Africans adding, “I stand with you in your efforts”.
The out-going Minister of Trade, Industry and Private Sector Development and PSI, Alan Kyeremanten, said it was the desire of the organizers of the forum to change the character and flavour of AGOA forum from being a forum to engage in theoretical discourse and policy dialogue between the US and Africa to transforming it into a consultation mechanism between the US and African private sector.
It said in spite of the obvious benefits to be derived from AGOA, the progress on implementation has been slow and had had impact on the economies of many eligible countries.
Mr. Kyeremanten said though imports form Africa under AGOA totaled 44.2 billion dollars last year, a significant increase over 2001 when the programme started, most of the increase involved crude oil and apparel exports.
In addition, Mr. Kyeremanten said, AGOA benefits were not being shared equally by all the 39 beneficiary countries and added that only about a dozen countries received most of the benefits while five did not export at all under AGOA.
He said although AGOA offers market access to African countries, sanitary and phyto-sanitary barriers close the doors to beneficiary countries and stressed the need for adequate capacity building support to private sector operators in Africa to meet the stringent technical requirements of the US market.
The Head of the US delegation to the forum, Ambassador Susan Schwab, said America was pleased to be a strong partner in tacking problems of Africa and mentioned the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), AGOA and the African Educational Initiative among others as some initiatives of the US government.
The Ghanaians Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007 Page: 1 & 4