By Landry Signé
1. Summary of testimony and discussion
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a preferential trade program that gives countries in sub-Saharan Africa preferential access to U.S. markets, allowing them to export products tariff-free.1 AGOA was created with the aim of increasing trade activity between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries and with a broader goal of fostering economic and political development in Africa.2 To date, AGOA has greatly increased total exports to the United States, but data on utilization rates has caused some to question why certain countries are able to capitalize on AGOA more than others. Despite some successes, the continued dominance of oil and apparel exports along with the decline in AGOA exports after their peak in 2008 has lowered confidence among some leaders and experts in AGOA’s ability to deliver on its promises. The potential of AGOA remains powerful to promote regional integration and diversified economies, but the data and experience of the past two decades must be examined to understand how the policy can be better structured and implemented in the future. While there is limited empirical evidence on the effects of these factors on AGOA implementation and success, this testimony suggests that they can be analyzed by comparing across commonalities and by using the lens of policy implementation theories. Themes that emerged from the discussion with Commissioners included the role that the African Continental Free Trade Area can play in widening and deepening AGOA’s successes, and the importance of value-adding activities being located in African countries.
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