Addis Ababa Ã¢â‚¬â€ The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted in May 2001, is a signature US trade initiative that provides Sub Saharan African Countries with a most liberal access to the U.S. market.
Much progress has been made under the Act over the last thirteen years. Since 2000, exports under AGOA have increased more than 500 percent, from $8.15 billion in 2001 to $53.8 billion in 2011.
Though about 90 percent of these exports have come from the oil and gas sector, non-oil and gas exports have also grown by 275 percent, from $1.2 billion to $4.5 billion in the same period.
However, compared to the potential many agree that much remains to be done to exploit the full potential of AGOA. In many African countries, AGOA exports have been limited to few products.
At every AGOA forum over the last thirteen years, African Ministers of trade have deliberating on how better to utilize the African opportunity.
In particular, over the last three years, there has been a more focused discussion and a decision was made to approach this question in a more strategic manner.
At the 11th AGOA forum in Zambia, African Trade Ministers underscored the need for AGOA eligible African countries to develop their respective National AGOA response strategy. And ECA and the African Union Commission provide technical assistance to African countries that wish to undertake this exercise.
Ethiopia is the first pilot country to undertake this strategic initiative and in this regard, the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade, in cooperation with the African Trade Policy Center of the ECA, has developed a National AGOA Response Strategy to identify key supply side constraints that impede the performance of the export sector and suggest possible interventions to help overcome these constraints.
As part of this exercise, the Ministry, in cooperation with ECA held an Ethiopian National AGOA Response Strategy consultative meeting from July 16-17th 2013 at the UN Conference Center.
The meeting brought together relevant stakeholders from the private sector, the government and the donor community to provide input for the National AGOA Response strategy.
Close to 200 participants comprised of leading exporters, heads of spectral associations, heads of chambers of commerce, senior government officials from various ministries, commercial diplomats, members of civil society and donors took part in this meeting. The meeting identified sector specific constraints in selected priority areas and the appropriate support programs and policy interventions to overcome them.
In addition to providing valuable input for the National Strategy which is expected to be finalized in few months time, the meeting also agreed on the need to set up a National Institutional Structure that oversees the development and implantation of the Strategy.
They meeting agreed on a need to set up a High Level National Steering Committee and Sector and area specific Technical Groups, and a full-fledged AGOA center to oversee the implementation of the National Strategy.
Speaking at the consultative Forum, Mr. Yacob Yala, and Ethiopia’s State Minister of Trade said he considers this strategy as an integral part of the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan. He Said, ” … the underlying objective of our GTP strategy is to increase the share and the benefits gained from the global economic integration with an ultimate goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025. The US market opportunity opened through AGOA is extremely useful to realize this objective.”
He also expressed his government’s appreciation for the support provided by the ECA’s Africa Trade Policy Centre over the years, as well as the support provided towards the preparation of the National Strategy and the August 2013 AGOA Forum that Ethiopia will be hosting.
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