US: Nigeria Must Diversify from Oil to Benefit from AGOA

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Solomon Elusoji

The United States of America has urged Nigeria to diversify its economy from oil exports if the country is to take full advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Speaking to journalists through a telephonic briefing that took place at the US Embassy in Lagos yesterday, the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Constance Hamilton, said “Nigeria has not taken advantage of AGOA because it focuses too much on oil.”

AGOA is a United States’ trade initiative to boost African exports to the US. The Act, which was passed in 2000 and extended four years ago to 2025, abolished import duties for more than 1,800 products manufactured in eligible sub-Sahara African countries.

But Hamilton said the bulk of Nigeria’s exports to the United States, under AGOA, still consist of oil.

The telephonic briefing, which was set up to discuss the next AGOA Forum, which would be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from August 4 to 6, was also attended by the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy.

“We want Africa to have choices when it comes to trade,” Tibor said.

“We would like to ensure that when there is a knock on the door the U.S. is also standing there. Our goal is to dramatically increase trade and investment between the US and Africa.

“We are empowering our embassies to support African businesses and U.S. businesses. AGOA and Prosper Africa are U.S. initiatives to help Africa prosper.

“Prosper Africa is a new initiative that formalises process that have already been taking place. Prosper Africa is about taking components that deal with Africa trade and placing them under one umbrella.”

“To maximise AGOA, countries must take an active role in creating the competitive conditions in which companies, entrepreneurs & farmers can thrive,” Hamilton said.

“With the FTA initiative we want to change the dynamic of our trade relationship with Africa.”

Although AGOA was scheduled to expire in six years – in 2025, Hamilton said the US was already looking forward to what would replace it.

“Our ultimate objective is to have a network of agreements to serve as building blocks to an eventual true Africa-U.S. trade partnership for the 21st century,” she said.

She added: “The US govt has invested heavily to help African countries better utilise AGOA, including creation of the Trade Hubs for African businesses and entrepreneurs allocating over $7 billion for trade capacity building initiatives.

“The best way to gain access to AGOA is to work through the regional Trade Hubs. They are open to business people and farmers etc. But it’s up to governments to let their people know how AGOA works.

“Africa is a top priority for the US govt. We see tremendous opportunities in this relationship & we want to work with our partners to unlock those gains.

“At the AGOA forum we will have new trade initiatives to discuss with various ministers. AGOA is scheduled to expire in six years and we need to discuss what comes next.”

The AGOA Forum is expected to bring together senior government officials from the United States and 39 sub-Saharan African AGOA-eligible countries to discuss ways to deepen economic cooperation and increase trade between the United States and Africa. The African Union and regional economic communities will also participate.

The theme of this year’s Forum is “AGOA and the Future: Developing a New Trade Paradigm to Guide U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment.” The 2019 Forum is expected to explore how countries can maximise the benefits of AGOA in a rapidly changing economic landscape, and can deepen our trade and investment ties in parallel with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.