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Ask The Ambassador: Trade and Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

We recently received a question from Ryan about the trade and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Besides reducing cotton subsidies, what trade alternatives are available to the United States to help alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa?"

Ambassador Kirk responds:

"Ryan, thank you for your question about how trade can help reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Trade can be an important tool for promoting sub-Saharan Africa's economic development and improving lives and livelihoods. That is why African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference program that provides duty free access to the U.S. market for substantially all products exported from 38 eligible sub-Saharan African countries can make a real difference in the lives of African entrepreneurs, farmers and families seeking a better life. Now in its tenth year, AGOA, enacted in 2000, has been at the center of U.S.-African engagement on trade and investment. AGOA has helped expand and diversify African exports to the United States, while at the same time fostering an improved business environment in many African countries.

U.S. imports under AGOA in 2009 totaled $33.7 billion, with $3.4 billion in nonoil trade, a sector that the United States wants to further expand.

Thanks to AGOA, imports of non-traditional and value-added products from Africa have increased dramatically. These include manufactured goods from South Africa, apparel from Lesotho, jams and jellies from Swaziland, cut flowers from Kenya and Ethiopia, and processed cocoa products from Ghana.

AGOA eligible countries are:

  • Angola

  • Benin

  • Botswana

  • Burkina Faso

  • Burundi

  • Cameroon

  • Cape Verde

  • Chad

  • Comoros

  • Republic of Congo

  • Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Djibouti

  • Ethiopia

  • Gabon

  • The Gambia

  • Ghana

  • Guinea-Bissau

  • Kenya

  • Lesotho

  • Liberia

  • Malawi

  • Mali

  • Mauritania

  • Mauritius

  • Mozambique

  • Namibia

  • Nigeria

  • Rwanda

  • Sao Tome and Principe

  • Senegal

  • Seychelles

  • Sierra Leone

  • South Africa

  • Swaziland

  • Tanzania

  • Togo

  • Uganda

  • Zambia

The eighth meeting of the AGOA Forum was held in August 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya. I traveled with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis to participate in the 2009 Forum, along with senior officials from more than a dozen U.S. Government agencies. We met with numerous African trade ministers, leaders of African regional economic organizations, and representatives of the African and American private sectors and civil society to discuss issues and strategies for advancing trade, investment, and economic development in Africa as well as ways to increase two-way U.S.-Africa trade. In 2009, I also visited South Africa, Ethiopia and Senegal and met with government and business leaders on trade and investment issues. I look forward to continuing to engage with our African partners, to explore ways we can strengthen our partnership to further stimulate development and alleviate poverty through trade.

The ninth AGOA Forum is currently taking place in both Washington DC (August 3-4) and in Kansas City, MO (August 5-6). This year’s AGOA Forum theme is 'AGOA at 10: New Strategies for a Changing World.'

To learn more about my trips to African countries and our US-Africa trade agenda, go to our Africa page."

Thank you for continuing our dialogue on trade. Please keep submitting your questions and comments for the Ambassador.