Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets of the United States of America, Arun M. Kumar, has called for more education and awareness creation on the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to African businesses.
Speaking to journalists in Ghana during a stop-over on his way to the 2015 AGOA Summit in Libreville-Gabon, Mr. Arun said Africa was not taking enough advantage of the AGOA, which was meant to give the continent the opportunity to export to the US market.
The stop-over was to enable Mr. Kumar to see how Ghana was taking advantage of AGOA, and to meet with some Ghanaian entrepreneurs who were actively exporting to the US under the Act.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a non-reciprocal trade preference programme that provides duty-free treatment to U.S. imports of certain products from eligible sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries.
He attributed this to lack of awareness on the part of African businesses of the benefits of AGOA, saying that the U.S would like to see a lot more people exporting to the US under AGOA.
He said the department was very focused on Africa, as President Obama at the Business Leaders Forum in Tanzania two years ago, emphasised his intention to achieve a new level of economic engagement with Africa, with several US initiatives geared toward this, including doing business in Africa, trade Africa and power Africa, as well as a series of business events.
“These initiatives have marshaled the resources and accelerated the engagement and focus of the U.S Government on broadening and deepening the relationships between our business communities,” he stated.
Mr. Kumar congratulated the Ministry of Trade and Industry for developing and signing the Trade Africa Framework, designed to increase internal and regional trade within Africa, and expand trade and economic ties with the United States.
According to him, the 10-year extension of the AGOA by the US Congress offered tremendous opportunities for Ghanaian entrepreneurs seeking to export Ghana-made products to the United States and urged Ghana to capitalise on the opportunity, by developing an effective AGOA strategy that would lead to long-term employment and opportunities for Ghanaians and further increase trade between the United States and Ghana.
The 10-year period, he noted, provided enough time to plan and operate a business under AGOA.
“Trade is not a one-way street. We want to see Ghana prosperous in order to encourage more American companies to find Ghanaian partners and do business in your beautiful country,” he stated.
He noted that the bilateral trade between Ghana and the US had risen steadily over the last decade, with trade of goods in 2014 close to $1.5 billion; 220 per cent higher than in 2004, adding, “I am encouraged by this growth and believe, like you do, that with the right policies and initiatives in place we can do even better in the future.”
Mr. Kumar said statistics from the American Chamber of Commerce in Accra indicated that about 40 per cent of AmCham members had in the last 10 years (2004-2014) invested close to $13 billion in Ghana, paid $800 million in taxes, and dedicated close to $500 million on various social programmmes, showing a correlation between US investment and the growth of US-Ghana trade in the same period.
He said although Ghana had various challenges, including infrastructure, energy, healthcare and fiscal challenges, the US was committed to promoting US-Ghana trade and investment.
“We are looking at how to ensure that US companies can bring their solutions to make a difference in Africa.”
He also revealed that in September the Department would lead the largest ever business trade mission to sub-Saharan Africa by the US government.
Companies in the mission will choose to go to eight sub-Saharan countries with Commerce Department presence- Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
“I am delighted that Ghana is part of this historic mission, and we need Ghana’s help to keep this momentum going.
“Solid U.S. companies representing the Infrastructure, Energy, Health Care, and Consumer Goods sectors have chosen Ghana as part of their trade mission to Africa. I trust that their meetings with Ghanaian officials and business executives will be productive, and that our American companies will find good local business partners to help them invest and operate in Ghana. That is our vision and our objective!” he added.