Africa: AGOA Closing Remarks by the Assistant Secretary Nagy

Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy addressing the Agoa Forum in Abidjan

Abidjan — Bonjour tout le monde.

C’est un grand honneur de conclure officiellement le Forum AGOA 2019 à Abidjan.  Tout d’abord, je voudrais remercier le gouvernement ivoirien d’avoir accueilli le forum de l’AGOA.

I’m especially honored to be here alongside the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, the Honorable Amadou Gon Coulibaly.

I’m always happy to come back to the continent, as I have a long and happy history living and working in Africa.

With seven diplomatic postings, I’ve committed my entire career to Africa and its wonderful people. In fact, three of my children were born on the continent -- the first triplets in independent Zimbabwe.

Now, as Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, I have another opportunity to promote the real story of Africa, which is an increasingly prosperous, peaceful and democratic continent.

I always say we must view Africa through the windscreen and not the rearview mirror.  This statement exemplifies for me the promise that Africa offers. Nor am I alone in this belief.  Africa has strong, and enduring, bipartisan support from both of our political parties.

This is significant if you know how Washington works.

The population of Africa is projected to double by 2050 to over 2 billion people, 70 percent of whom will be under 30 years old.  If the emerging “youth bulge” is brought to its full potential, the possibilities are limitless!

We must capitalize on this reality.

This forum marks the 18th year government officials, business leaders, entrepreneurs and civil society from African countries and the United States have convened to advance commercial and trade ties.

The AGOA forum has been the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement with the countries of Africa since 2000.

Because of AGOA, the rate of growth in critical areas has been substantial since its inception.

Non-oil trade under AGOA increased more than 300 percent since 2001, and the growth of these non-oil industries has spurred an estimated 300,000 direct jobs in beneficiary countries.  AGOA has led to many more indirect jobs.

To put a real face on AGOA’s successes, look at the Alafia company in Togo and Ghana.  With AGOA, Alafia created 14,000 jobs for Africans, most of whom are women.  The company also won the U.S. Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate excellence in 2018.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia only started using the AGOA program for footwear in 2007.  However, in the last six years, Ethiopia’s exports through AGOA have increased over forty-five-fold!  Ethiopia is now the first substantial AGOA footwear supplier to the United States.  What a great achievement!

Kenya is now the second-largest exporter of non-oil products under AGOA.  70 percent of its exports fall under AGOA, with the majority coming from the agriculture sector.  There clearly is a strong demand for Kenyan produce in the United States.  It is estimated this sector contributes to approximately 36 percent of GDP, and exports of these products support over 100,000 farmers in Kenya!

And it doesn’t stop there!

In fact, the Trump Administration’s new Africa Strategy is taking our relationship with Africa to a whole new level.

  •   First, the United States has made trade and investment with Africa our top priority; 
  •   Second, we are betting on Africa’s youth. We must harness this tremendous population to drive Africa’s economic growth and create real prosperity;
  •   Third, we must continue to advance peace and security across the continent. A safe continent is a critical pillar for attracting investors;
  •   Fourth, I am here to reinforce that America has an unwavering commitment to Africa. No country in the world can match the depth and breadth of America’s enduring engagement with the people of Africa.

So, how does AGOA fit into our strategy?  Well, in 2019, 39 countries were eligible for AGOA benefits.  Eligibility requires countries to make progress toward developing a stable, attractive environment for investment.

This includes rule of law, and a market-based economy.  It also ensures the protection of workers’ rights and calls for a system to combat corruption.  Its objective is to reduce poverty and promote adherence to human rights.

All are critical factors in spurring sustainable economic growth.

As other countries see the successes brought about through AGOA, they will want to duplicate this type of progress themselves.

And the United States’ economic engagement in Africa does not stop at AGOA.

For one, Prosper Africa is a new U.S. Government-led initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between Africa and the United States.

It supports African importers and exporters and drives investment by establishing U.S. Embassy Deal Facilitation Teams across the continent.

Additionally, Export Assistance Centers and Small Business Development Centers equip American businesses to enter the African market.

Another initiative, the BUILD Act, will deepen U.S.-Africa trade ties by doubling investment capital available from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to 60 billion dollars.

It also establishes the new Development Finance Corporation.  This will offer more support for private sector investment in developing countries as well as equity investments in African companies.

The BUILD Act will help attract private capital from all over the world.  It will contribute to job growth and economic opportunities both in the United States and Africa.

We anticipate that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) will lower barriers to trade and investment, boost competitiveness, attract investment, and diversify trade.

The African Union and leaders on the continent should be commended for bringing this transformative trade agreement into force.

And to complement the ACFTA, one of my top goals is to establish at least one bilateral free trade agreement with an African country.

Added to all this, we have the Millennium Challenge Corporation…Power Africa…the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program…and so much more.

With these commitments and AGOA’s enduring success, we can continue to capitalize on further cooperation, and trade and investment opportunities.

As an old African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  And we plan to go very far with our African partners.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of speaking to you today and being a part of this forum.

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