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Ministers call for AGOA fund to support SMEs
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Business News of Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Source: GNA

Ministers call for AGOA fund to support SMEs

Accra, July 18, GNA - African Ministers attending the ongoing 6th African Growth and Opportunity Act(AGOA) meeting in Accra on Wednesday proposed the setting up of an AGOA fund to support Small and Medium-scale Enterprises that export to the US market. Mr. Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry, PSD and PSI, told a press conference that the idea of the fund was one of six recommendations that the ministers were putting on the table to enhance eligible countries' capacity to benefit from the preferential trade arrangement.

He noted that the challenge that faced African countries in their effort to fully access AGOA was that of low supply capacity, saying that the six-point proposal was therefore intended to trigger US support in the areas of capacity building, technical assistance and foreign direct investment (FDI) among others.

"We propose that there should be an increased FDI from the US into Africa, that the US should support Africa with technical assistance in the areas of capacity building, that there should be an awareness creation drive in both the US and in Africa about AGOA and that there should be a more predictable program that would ensure a sustained engagement between Africa and the US government over the next eight years that AGOA would last for," he said.

Mr. Kyerematen said the on-going meeting had got to a good start and he was confident that it would be the most successful AGOA meeting in terms of concrete initiatives towards enhancing Africa's capacity to fully access AGOA.

He challenged African countries to diversify their export base to enable them to compete favourably with the other major exporters into the US market like China.

Ms. Susan Schwab, US Trade Representative and Head of the US delegation to the AGOA meeting, noted that out of 6,400 AGOA products range available for export from Africa, only 3,800 were currently being shipped from African shores to the US.

She assured the ministers of the commitment of US President George Bush to sustain AGOA, saying that the high US congressional vote in support of AGOA was indicative that even after President George Bush, the US would continue to support AGOA.

Ms. Schwab, who is leading 139 officials and technical experts from 16 states, private sector and civil society institutions from the US, said the benefits of AGOA had doubled since its launch in 2001 to 44 billion dollars.

"We are here to take stock of progress made so far with the AGOA and to stimulate better performance in the coming years," she said. About 2000 participants from governments, the private sector and civil societies in the US and in AGOA-eligible African countries are attending the meeting to discuss ways and means to increase trade and investment between the US and sub-Saharan Africa.

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