Total trade between the United States and African countries supported under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) only reached US$36 billion in 2015, down from US$50 billion in 2014, according to official statistics.
The decline, the fourth consecutive time in the past four years (US$61 billion in 2013 and US$66 billion in 2012), have been reportedly attributed to the US’s reduction since 2012 of oil and gas imports, commodities which constitute the bulk of US imports from this natural resource-rich region.
Signed into law in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, AGOA is an economic deal that allows Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries to export more than 6 000 types of goods to the US market on a duty-free basis.
The deal, which ended last year but was subsequently renewed by President Barack Obama in September, currently comprises 39 countries. Nigeria alone accounted for 32% of the region’s combined exports to the US in 2013, while Angola and South Africa took a share of 24% each over the same period, according to Bridges Africa.
Described as the ‘central pillar of economic relations’ between the US and SSA, AGOA is said to have created about 300 000 direct jobs across Africa’s eligible countries.
“AGOA is creating economic opportunities for families across the continent and helping African companies improve their competitiveness, while creating an environment conducive to the growth of private sector investment,” US President Barak Obama said.
However, analysts continue to call on SSA countries to diversify their economies if they wanted to enjoy the full advantages of AGOA.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We want to see there be a diversification of the products that are being sent under AGOA, and we are working with countries to bring them into a better economic place so that they can benefit from the AGOA benefits.”