In 2013, U.S. imports from Sub Saharan Africa, under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), totalled $39.3 billion. By contrast, the U.S. imported $8.468 million worth of goods from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region in 2000 and $19.869 million in 2012.
Due to expire in 2015, U.S. Congress will decide on whether to extend or amend the AGOA agreement. Charles Brewer, managing director of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa, says this region’s growth is still dependent on trade facilitation and enhancing both intra-regional trade and global trade.
Speaking after the 2014 U.S. – Sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (known as the AGOA Forum), which coincided with President Barack Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, both held in Washington last week, Brewer cautioned that this region has much more trade potential for U.S. businesses.
“While trade between the U.S. and Sub Saharan Africa has increased significantly in the last few years, there is still much room for growth,” he added. “In 2013, U.S. imports from Sub Saharan Africa represented only 1.7%2 of total U.S. imports from the world. This highlights the remaining untapped growth potential for the region.”
He said the top three trade lanes to the U.S. from the Sub Saharan Africa region originated from Nigeria, Angola and South Africa, which accounted for $11.72, $8.74 and $8.48 billion respectively.
“AGOA has facilitated trade between Sub Saharan Africa and the U.S. by enabling the trade process, as well as successfully promoting the integration of Sub Saharan Africa into the global economy,” Brewer said. “These favorable trade conditions have also allowed the region to maximize the opportunities available and increase exports.”
Brewer says that since the introduction of AGOA, DHL Africa has seen an increase in primary trading sectors like manufacturing, apparel and footwear – all directly supported by AGOA. In addition, they have also witnessed an increase in secondary sectors that are dependent on agriculture, petroleum and natural gases.
Brewer’s views were echoed at the AGOA Forum where World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim3, remarked that trade preferences schemes, such as AGOA, can play an important role in helping Africa realize their opportunities to expand trade activity and that the Act assists African countries diversify their exports, and move away from dependence on minerals and commodities to reach more diversified and inclusive sources of export growth. President Obama4 also announced his commitment to support the continuation and enhancement of the AGOA.
“Africa is the ‘last frontier,’ the more we collectively focus on connecting it with the world, the more sustainable its economies will be and the more jobs we will create – creating a virtuous cycle of success,” concluded Brewer.
1 Agoa.info, Regional Info: SADC
2 U.S. Department of Commerce - International Trade Administration: U.S. Trade with sub-Saharan Africa, January-December 2013
3 Speech: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim's Remarks at AGOA Forum
4 The White House blog: President Obama Speaks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum