TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Corporate Coucil on Africa: Assessment of the AGOA Private Sector Forum

Monday, 12 June 2006

Source: Corporate Council on Africa

On Monday, June 5th, 2006, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) held a highly successful one-day African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Private Sector Forum in Washington, D.C. CCA’s Private Sector Forum complemented the 2006 AGOA Ministerial hosted by the U.S. Department of State from June 6th to 7th, 2006, the AGOA Civil Society Forum hosted by Bread for the World also on June 6th and 7th, and the AGOA Investment Summit hosted by The Whitaker Group on June 7th. Two hundred and seventy-five U.S. and African public and private sector participants attended the CCA AGOA Private Sector Forum. The African Growth and Opportunity Act legislation, enacted in 2000, allows qualified African countries to export over 6,000 products duty-free into the United States.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Karan K. Bhatia provided opening remarks for CCA’s Forum, stating, “coincident with the rise of AGOA, we have witnessed the development of a broad consensus among African leaders and the international trade and development community that increased trade is a key element of our shared efforts to boost African economic growth and development.” In addition, Principal Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Bobby Pittman, also spoke at the opening session. Trade is an opportunity to build bridges, deepen relationships, and promote a better quality of life across borders and continents” said Mr. Pittman. CCA President, Stephen Hayes, said, “our future success will be based on our ability to keep the communication channels between the public and private sectors open so that we can jointly address challenges, create and stimulate new U.S. investment in Africa, and significantly increase export development in all AGOA-eligible African countries.”

CCA’s Ministerial Luncheon was attended by Ministers of Trade from the AGOA-eligible African countries, including the Ghanaian and South African Ministers. The luncheon plenary session featured The Honorable Mandisi Mpahlwa, South Africa’s Minster of Trade and Industry; Holly Vineyard, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Africa, Middle East, and South Asia; and Ken Ofori-Atta, Chairman of DATABANK, Ghana. Minister Mpahlwa noted that South Africa is one of the leading investors in Africa and that a range of companies from multiple sectors are performing well in Africa. Remarking that infrastructure needs impact all areas of business, Minister Mpahlwa called for infrastructure to be a foremost priority for all stakeholders in Africa’s economic development. Holly Vineyard said that conferences such as CCA’s AGOA Forum help to celebrate successes. She also underscored the need to address infrastructure problems, highlighting that a three-day transportation delay is equivalent to a 24 percent tariff duty. “The U.S. is a time-sensitive market and African producers need to further develop their capacity to serve the U.S. market” remarked Ms. Vineyard. Ken Ofori-Atta’s spoke about the many opportunities for doing successful business in Africa. His company started out with $8 million in capital 10 years ago and has currently amassed more than $80 million in capital.

CCA’s AGOA Private Sector Forum covered several important topics, including African textiles and apparel trade; growing agricultural trade under AGOA; increasing U.S. private sector investment in Africa; infrastructure development; and financing investment and trade. Panelists on the infrastructure plenary made clear that the “soft” elements of infrastructure such as customs unions, free trade areas, investment treaties, and regional insurance providers are no less important and must be included in large-scale infrastructure development plans. Panelists in the financing plenary discussed the importance of U.S. private banks finding enhanced ways to partner with African private banks to mobilize capital for projects and investment and to increase their influence on the continent. Speakers in the agriculture workshop emphasized sustained market access as the biggest challenge for African companies, asserting that the loss of access to the U.S. market would have adverse consequences on African economies.

In conjunction with the Forum, CCA launched the publication of an AGOA Special Edition of its quarterly magazine, The Africa Journal, at a special press conference. This Special Edition titled “AGOA Private Sector Report: Promoting Trade and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Opportunities, Obstacles, and Realities”, was made available to all forum attendees. The press conference featured the Honorable Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, South African Minister of Trade and Industry; Her Excellency Josefina Pitra Diakite, Ambassador of the Republic of Angola; Heather Pederson, Director for International Operations at The Boeing Company; and Paul Ryberg, President of the Africa Coalition for Trade. Articles in the AGOA Private Sector Report cover a range of subjects pertinent to U.S.-Africa trade, including cotton, cocoa, sugar, textiles and apparel, transportation, tourism, trade capacity-building, and finance and investment.

The Africa Journal is dedicated to raising the profile of Africa in the United States, introducing key figures in the U.S. and African business and government community; providing analysis and in-depth features on current economic and political developments; highlighting CCA members’ successes in Africa; and informing readers of CCA programs, services, and events. “We commend Stephen Hayes and the CCA staff for producing a quality journal that highlights business opportunities in Africa to the U.S. market” said Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa.

Sponsors of the 2006 AGOA Private Sector Forum include The Boeing Company, Chevron, The Africa Institute of the American Jewish Committee, Manchester Trade, The Africa Coalition for Trade, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Mars Company, and The World Cocoa Foundation.