AAI on AGOA: ‘Allowing the Africa Rising Story to Happen’

AAI on AGOA: ‘Allowing the Africa Rising Story to Happen’

Why Capacity Matters More Than Market Access

“For the first time at these AGOA forums it’s now addressing the issue of human capacity. It’s not about the market access. All has been happening for those countries that have the capacity,” H.E. Mulamula added.

“If you compare Tanzania and South Africa — we have one product, we have one factory and that’s what we’re bringing here. South Africa has 200 products that are coming into this market.”

Liser and Gregory Simpkins, Staff Director of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations believe that strides in capacity can be attained by lessening the load on African producers.

Large U.S. retailers who order huge quantities of products from Africa are sometimes unaware of the strain placed on workers in some countries.

“We often talk about AGOA and the successes and failures. The blame is for these failures is often put on Africans when it’s mutual. Manufacturers in Africa are not able to keep up with the people who buy here,” Simpkins said.

“Why in the world are we concentrating on taking these little countries and matching their producers with Walmart or JCPenny? Some of the producers can do it, but for the most part, that’s not going to happen.”

Methods For Success

Aggregating small and independent retailers with small-scale producers, he said, could be an effective alternative.

Another panelist, Witney Schneidman, Senior International Advisor for Africa, Covington & Burling LLP, said that once African leaders meet with the Obama administration at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit later this year in August, ministries need to outline new AGOA strategies.

“Not only will each country develop an AGOA strategy, but the month or two after the summit, they’ll be posted on ministry trade websites and AGOA.gov so we can literally see what’s going on,” he said.

In addition, political coups should not determine the eligibility of a country’s participation in AGOA, Schneidman offered.

When You’re in You’re In

“When there’s a coup, you’re out of AGOA. I think we need to take a good hard look at that. Madagascar’s a perfect example,” he continued.

“They’ve been involved in this political crisis for four years. As a result, they’ve not been in AGOA, but who’s the big loser in that? The big loser is the 2,000 women who’ve been working in those factories and those plants. Their jobs are gone and America’s not investing.”

The concept of committing to the extension of AGOA circles back to congress Stephen Lamar, executive VP of American Apparel & Footwear Association said.

Although the deadline is next fall, a conducive congressional calendar and grouping of AGOA supporters has to be in motion now in order to impact a favorable decision. Long-term extensions and reviewing the benefits of AGOA, Lamar believes, must be taken into consideration long before setbacks become make-or-break issues.