Africa: Can African Leaders Extend the Us-Africa Trade Program?

Delegates from Africa and the US have been meeting in Johannesburg to discuss the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Washington’s flagship trade program for the continent.

South Africa is hosting a US-sub-Saharan Africa trade forum to discuss the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) — a program that provides eligible countries in the region with tarrif-free access to US markets.

Ministers from about 40 sub-Saharan African countries benefiting from the AGOA are meeting with US envoys for three days in Johannesburg.

The US initiative — which was passed in 2000 with the aim of deepening trade ties with Sub-Saharan Africa and helping African nations develop their economies — is set to expire at the end of September 2025.

US to ditch 4 nations from pact

Countries can lose and regain eligibility based on criteria including adherence to democracy, protection of human rights, and a market-based economy.

The United States earlier this week announced plans to expel Uganda, Gabon, Niger and the Central African Republic (CAR) from January 2024 over concerns about coups, democracy and human rights.

Extending the pact

One of the main topics likely to be in focus at the forum is whether or not the AGOA should be extended beyond its September 2025 expiration date — and if so, for how long.

“We would like an extension of AGOA for 10 years,” AU trade and industry commissioner Albert Muchanga told DW. “If the offer is 20 years, l think, we as Africa should be ready to accept it.”

South Africa’s trade minister, Ebrahim Patel, informed delegates that the continent is prepared to double its exports if the extension of this pact is granted beyond 2025. He said that there is a need for Africa to be more strategic in its negotiations with the US.

“Africa is finding its role in the world,” Patel said. “We will develop a common view that we will present as separate delegations when we engage the United States.”

South Africa’s diplomatic balancing act

Despite South Africa hosting the AGOA forum, there have been diplomatic tensions between South Africa, the US, Russia and China — which experts fear might complicate the discussions.

Adrian Saville, an economic and finance strategist, said this poses significant challenges in balancing relationships with both sides, given the economic alliances and historical ties involved.

“What South Africa has been trying is to be facing left and right at the same time — and that’s a real challenge in any circumstances,” he told DW.

Nancy-Wang Moussissa and Thuso Khumalo contributed to this article which has been adapted from German

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