WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global experts have concluded an international forum held at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) headquarters in Washington, D.C. to craft recommendations for maximizing trade between Africa and the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The longstanding U.S. legislation has helped boost trade with African nations, strengthen democracy, and improve the quality of life for citizens via new economic opportunities.
The AGOA Civil Society Organization (CSO) Network and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) organized the annual event, which occurred Monday and Tuesday. Participants from 40 nations held panel discussions and activities designed to help them form policy recommendations for their governments ahead of ministerial meetings this week with U.S. Trade officials. CIPE Executive Director Andrew Wilson welcomed forum attendees and provided encouragement.
“CIPE’s work is particularly important in Africa, a continent with huge economic potential that is often hindered by weak institutions,” Wilson said. “For all of us who are working at the intersection of international trade and development, this is a crucial time to make our voices heard.”
Moderators from CIPE, the AGOA CSO Network, AWEP, Solidarity Center, and the Pan-African Diaspora Women’s Association led discussions on a number of key topics: economic development for women, labor rights, and top challenges facing small and medium enterprises, which account for nearly 95% of businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“If we take a look at opportunities for investment across Africa, we have some of the highest rates of return for investors. So the question is: Why isn’t there more trade?” asked Lars Benson, CIPE’s Regional Director for Africa.
The AGOA legislation, enacted in 2000, requires African trade partners of the U.S. to demonstrate they are working to improve rule of law, human rights, and labor standards.
“Our members on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are committed to the expansion of U.S.-Africa trade and economic cooperation,” said Fred Oladeinde, AGOA CSO Network Secretariat. “Our Secretariat is ready, willing, and able to coordinate and monitor the development and publication of national biennial AGOA utilization strategies in eligible countries that support increased trade and create wealth and prosperity in both Africa and the United States.”
Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary with the U.S. Department of State, delivered opening remarks at the forum on Monday. The group also honored U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California for his work to strengthen economic cooperation and development in African nations.
CIPE is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy and an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. CIPE’s mission is to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is currently leading 107 projects in 68 countries, including Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Visit www.cipe.org for more information.