U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the expulsion of Uganda, Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic (CAR) from the special U.S.-Africa trade program known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This decision stems from concerns over these nations’ “gross violations” of human rights and a lack of progress toward democratic governance, according to Biden.

Established in 2000, AGOA grants eligible sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the United States for over 1,800 products, promoting trade and economic growth. President Biden cited the recent military coups in Niger and Gabon as reasons for their ineligibility for AGOA, as these countries failed to make substantial progress in protecting political pluralism and the rule of law.

Furthermore, the Central African Republic and Uganda face expulsion due to “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” committed by their respective governments. In May, the U.S. government considered removing Uganda from AGOA and imposing sanctions following the passage of a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which has drawn global criticism.

President Biden emphasized that despite extensive efforts to engage with these countries, they have not addressed U.S. concerns regarding AGOA eligibility criteria. This announcement comes just before South Africa hosts the 20th AGOA forum scheduled for this week.

 

 

The expulsion of these nations from AGOA will take effect at the beginning of the next year, potentially impacting their economies. AGOA has been credited with boosting exports, fostering economic growth, and creating jobs in participating countries.

Among AGOA beneficiary countries, there has been variability in the program’s impact, influenced by factors such as local business conditions and challenges in policy implementation. Some nations have seen significant export growth to the US by developing clear AGOA strategies, while others struggle due to internal policy conflicts and a lack of coherent vision.

By 2022, 18 out of 39 AGOA beneficiary countries had established strategies to maximize the program’s benefits. Having a structured AGOA plan, like Mali, Mozambique, and Zambia, correlated with increased exports to the U.S. Having a clear AGOA strategy, along with political will and resources, can enhance outcomes and provide a straightforward path to boost exports.

For instance, Ethiopia, before facing U.S. sanctions, expanded its AGOA-aligned exports by identifying sector-specific challenges and implementing targeted solutions, leading to significant export growth. Similarly, Botswana’s continuously refined AGOA strategy, informed by stakeholder feedback, may serve as a valuable model for other African nations.

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