Windhoek — The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) currently provides 40 African countries with duty-free access to the US market for 6000 diverse product lines.
AGOA is an act promulgated in the US that significantly enhances US market access for over 40 sub-Saharan (SSA) countries.
The Act originally covered the eight-year period from October 2000 to September 2008, but amendments signed into law by then US president George W. Bush in July 2004 further extended AGOA to 2015.
Since its enactment in 2000, two-way trade has grown to US$82.1 billion in 2010 and AGOA exports to the United States have increased to US$44.3 billion.
The Under Secretary for Political Affairs of the American Government, Ambassador Wendy Sherman made these remarks on 28 March at the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC after a recent trip to Africa.
The Namibian sectors currently involved in exports to the US under AGOA include forest products, energy related products, fisheries, textiles and minerals just to name a few. According to research done in 2006 by the Bank of Namibia, the total exports of all Namibian products increased from US$57.3 million in 2002 to US$238.2 million in 2004.
Sherman was sharing her perspectives on Africa's future, after visiting Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi and Kenya during March this year.
"Six of the ten fastest growing countries in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that over the next five years, that number will reach seven of the top ten," she said.
According to Sherman, Africa is in a rapid economic transformation mode and is closer to transforming its economic potential into self-sustainable growth.
Approximately 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land is on the African continent, covering over 600 million hectares. Working together with African partners to develop profitable and sustainable agriculture is natural for the US seeing that no one knows agriculture better than Americans according to Sherman.
"The production of natural resources on the continent such as oil, gas and minerals are likely to continue a steady growth of between 2% and 4% annually, raising the value of resource production to US$540 billion in the next eight years," she said.
By 2020, the largest sub-Saharan African markets, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lagos will each hit US$25 billion a year in household spending.
The Under Secretary emphasized that they are seeing the development of the next big economic frontier and the US has much to gain and to offer by recognizing and supporting Africa's just and sustainable economic growth. She further explained that AGOA remains the corner stone of America's economic and commercial partnership with Africa.
"It promotes free markets, expands US-African trade and investment, stimulates growth and facilitates sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy," she said.
"Furthermore, through the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), we are working directly with African entrepreneurs to accelerate the growth of women-owned businesses and export capacity, foster leadership for women's business organizations and support women's advocacy roles as voices of change in their communities," she said.
She added that the US is actively promoting an Economic Statecraft Agenda throughout the world, including Africa by attracting US companies to invest in Africa's agriculture, infrastructure and energy sectors.
"However, sustainable growth over the long term will not be easy and it will take an integrated approach that must include the establishment of good governance and strong democratic institutions," she said, adding that during President Barack Obama's speech in Ghana in July 2009 he said that "development depends on good governance...that is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places around Africa".
Strong civil societies play a critical role by holding African governments and elected officials accountable.
"In most of the countries I visited, I met with representatives from across civil society, including human rights advocates and women's groups who are dedicated to rooting out corruption and ensuring that their governments follow through on promised reforms," she said.