Business News of Monday, 16 July 2007
Accra, July 16, GNA - Mr. Alan Kyerematen, Outgoing Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and PSI, on Monday urged African countries to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) now, saying that it would not remain open forever.
"Let us remember that AGOA will not remain open to Africa forever," he said.
Mr. Kyerematen made the call when he opened the First Experts Meeting of the African Ministerial Consultative Group on AGOA. AGOA is an initiative by the United States government to enable some selected African countries based on some criteria to export over 6,400 locally manufactured products to the US market on tariff-free and quota-free basis.
AGOA was passed into law in 2000 and its benefits ran into trillions of dollars for eligible African countries, provided they take full advantage of it.
The four-day meeting in Accra is under that theme: "As Trade Grows, Africa Prospers: Optimising the Benefits under AGOA." Unlike previous AGOA meetings in Dakar and in Washington DC, the Accra meeting is open to not only state actors and private sector representatives from eligible African countries and from the US, but also to civil society organisations.
Mr. Kyerematen noted that even though AGOA had been a law since 2000, its impact on African countries was still insignificant due to the lack of strategic focus on the kind of policy, legal, institutional and support framework to assist the private sector to produce on competitive basis.
"The progress made on AGOA in several countries is regrettably slow," he said.
He noted that most African countries continued to depend on a few export commodities and were therefore yet to identify the comparative or competitive advantage they had within the diversified product range under AGOA.
Mr. Kyerematen said the need for eligible African countries to up their act and take full advantage of AGOA would require the efforts of all stakeholders within the individual countries.
He added that non-eligible countries should also work their way into eligibility to ensure that the continent grew as a whole. Meanwhile, some civil society organisations have raised some critical issues about the AGOA, with respect to the range of products it covers and therefore declared their intention to demand an expansion in the product coverage range.