US President Joe Biden has announced his government’s intention to remove four countries as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) from the beginning of next year.
Agoa provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for over 1 800 products, in addition to the more than 5 000 products that are eligible for duty-free access under the Generalised System of Preferences programme.
Since its enactment in 2000, Agoa has been at the core of US economic policy and commercial engagement with Africa.
In a letter to the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate yesterday (MON), Biden provided advance notification of his intent to terminate the designation of the Central African Republic, the Gabonese Republic, Niger, and the Republic of Uganda.
Biden said he was taking this step after determining that these countries did not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of Agoa.
“Specifically, the government of the Central African Republic has engaged in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights and has not established, or is not making continual progress toward establishing, the protection of internationally recognised worker rights, the rule of law, and political pluralism,” Biden said.
“Niger and the government of Gabon have not established, or are not making continual progress toward establishing, the protection of political pluralism and the rule of law. Finally, the government of Uganda has engaged in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.”
To meet Agoa’s rigorous eligibility requirements, countries must establish or make continual progress towards establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism and the right to due process.
Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to US trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption, and protect human rights.
Biden said that despite intensive engagement between the US and the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda, these countries have failed to address US concerns about their non-compliance with the Agoa eligibility criteria.
“Accordingly, I intend to terminate the designation of these countries as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries under the Agoa, effective January 1, 2024,” he said.
“I will continue to assess whether the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda meet the Agoa eligibility requirements.”
This comes as South Africa will host the 20th US–sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (Agoa Forum) next week in Johannesburg.
South Africa is seeking an extension of Agoa beyond 2025 which will promote inward investment in Africa and provide benefits to both the US and African countries.