The 2015 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum is being held in Libreville, Gabon, this week. The forum will provide an opportunity to celebrate the recent reauthorization of AGOA, take stock of AGOA’s successes over the last 15 years and launch a dialogue on the future of U.S.-Africa trade. Senior officials from the U.S. are in Gabon to meet with officials from 39 AGOA member countries, including Botswana, as well as business leaders, entrepreneurs, civil society members, and the private sector to discuss trade and investment.
Originally enacted in 2000, AGOA is the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement in Africa. AGOA offers unilateral tariff free access to the U.S. market for Botswana. AGOA makes it easier for Batswana businesses to sell their products in America while helping open markets in this country to American businesses. AGOA also encourages economic and governance reform. New AGOA legislation calls for promoting the role of women in social and economic development. At this week’s forum, the African Women Entrepreneurship Program will conduct workshops on preparing female African entrepreneurs to enter the regional and global procurement supply chains.
The reauthorisation and 10-year extension of AGOA underscores the importance of growing trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa through measures designed to make the agreement more responsive to unique circumstances in each country. Over half of all imports from eligible African countries enter the U.S. duty free. Botswana’s companies directly benefit from AGOA. Botswana’s exports under AGOA reached $9.5 million in 2014 and included textiles, leather, baskets, and diamond products. Botswana’s exports under AGOA grew by 50 percent in 2014. But we can do even better.
Botswana is blessed and challenged by geography. Botswana has a choice to either be land-locked or land-connected depending on customs procedures and regional transportation infrastructure. I commend the Government of Botswana for its progress on customs reform over the last year. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Trade Hub is proud to have assisted with the establishment of a National Single Window that makes trade faster, cheaper, and more efficient. While there has been much progress, high shipping costs continue to impede Botswana’s regional competitiveness. To export a container from Botswana through the Port of Durban it costs $3,145 and takes 27 days, according to the World Bank. Implementing the National Single Window and streamlining customs procedures could leverage Botswana’s strategic position as a gateway and business hub for Southern Africa.
The U.S. Government is looking to foster an enabling environment to build export capacity and private sector-led growth in Botswana. We provide resources to individual companies through the Exporter Toolkit, available online at http://agoa.info/. The toolkit includes resources on exporter readiness, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and export marketing. I urge Batswana entrepreneurs to take advantage of these resources and export to the U.S. Together we can strengthen our commercial ties to the betterment of both our great nations.
Earl R. Miller
US Ambassador to Botswana