US officials, lawmakers express support for extension of Africa trade program

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — U.S. officials and lawmakers expressed support Saturday for the extension of a trade program that grants eligible African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets.

The move follows a clear push by eligible African countries at the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade forum in Johannesburg to have the program extended. It is currently slated to expire in September 2025.

AGOA is U.S. legislation that allows sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets provided they meet certain conditions, including adherence to the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

Addressing the forum this week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on the U.S. Congress to extend the program for a far longer period than the previous 10-year extension granted in 2015.

More than 30 African countries that are part of the AGOA program participated in the forum, where African businesses showcased products ranging from food and jewelry to electronics. The forum concluded Saturday.

In a statement released Friday, U.S. lawmakers expressed support for the extension of the program.

“Africa is on the precipice of an unprecedented demographic boom. The timely reauthorization of AGOA is important to provide business certainty and show the United States’ continued support towards Africa’s economic growth,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul and ranking member Gregory Meeks in a statement.

U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai, who led the U.S delegation, emphasized AGOA’s impact on African businesses and its importance to the United States.

“AGOA remains the cornerstone of the U.S. economic partnership with Africa, let us not forget the real impact that AGOA has had on real lives, real people,” she said.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden announced his intention to boot Niger, Gabon, the Central African Republic and Uganda from AGOA.

He said Niger and Gabon had failed to establish or make continual progress toward the protection of political pluralism and the rule of law, while citing the Central African Republic and Uganda as having committed gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

According to Ramaphosa, the extension will provide much needed certainty for eligible African countries and encourage more trade between the U.S. and the continent.