ZAMBIAâ€™S CHAIRMASHIP OF AGOA â€“ LESSONS LEARNT By Ben Kangwa Zambia assumed Chairmanship of the Ministerial Consultative Group of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) during the 9th AGOA Forum in August, 2010. The African Ministerial Consultative Group on AGOA usually meets on the eve of the AGOA Forum and provides a platform for African Ministers to emerge with a common position on how to engage with their US counterparts during the Forum. It is also during these meetings that the Chairmanship is handed over to the next African host of the Forum endorsed by the Ministers. These meetings take place over 2-3 days beginning at expert level, culminating at Ministerial level. Zambia will thus be expected to hand over Chairmanship to Ethiopia on the eve of the 11th AGOA Forum. The offers made by Ethiopia and Cameroon to host the next two Forums in Africa in 2013 and 2015 respectively were endorsed during the Consultative Group meeting held in Lusaka in June 2011. HOSTING OF THE FORUM The Forum is held annually, bringing together government leaders, the private sector and the civil society from the US and Africa. It is the highest level of interaction between the US and Africa on trade and economic issues and has been held on an annual basis at Ministerial level since its enactment by the US Congress in 2000. The venue alternates between the US and an AGOA eligible country. The US delegation is usually led by the Secretary of State and also includes the US Trade Representative (US chief negotiator at Cabinet level), the Secretary of Commerce, Agriculture and other relevant senior government officials. ZAMBIA HOSTS 2011 AGOA FORUM In June 2011, Zambia was the first country in the Southern African region to host the 11th AGOA Meeting at the Mulungushi International Conference Center
(MICC). The Forum dubbed, “the best ever” after Kenya in August 2009, Ghana in July 2007, Senegal in July 2005 and Mauritius in January 2003, was graced with the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AGOA 2011 AFRICAN MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIVE GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS The recommendations that emerged from the African Ministerial Consultative Group in 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia were: · The need for AGOA eligible countries to speak with one voice in urging the US to extend AGOA beyond 2015 · To urge the US for the Third Country Fabric provision to run concurrently with AGOA after it expires in 2012 · A call to the US to priotise capacity building especially in infrastructure development, sanitary and physio-sanitary laboratories and private sector support to enable African countries take advantage of the market access AGOA offers · To urge the US to consider relaxing its restrictive rules of origin in order to promote diversification of exports into the US, especially for agricultural products . · Lastly to request US support towards Africa’s regional integration efforts through development of value chains WAY FORWARD Going forward and the lessons learnt, the responsibility on the part of the diplomatic corps is to equip proponents of AGOA in Congress with proper information in order to deliver a message that is well understood and to avoid misunderstandings. Priority would be the Bill’s extension as well as the extension of the Third Country Fabric provision.
AGOA 2012 This year’s Forum shall be held under the theme “ ENHANCING AFRICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE FOR TRADE” and will be preceded by a two day Civil Society
Program on June 12-13, an infrastructure Conference on June 18-20 hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa and alter move on from Washington DC to Cincinnati, Ohio for the USA-Business Conference (USABC) on June 21-22 nd. The Ministerial portion of the Forum on infrastructure development in Africa that supports and promotes trade will focus around four key objectives. These are: · Development transport, energy, telecommunications and other “hard” infrastructure to improve African competitiveness and promote regional and US sub-Saharan Africa trade. · Improve the business climate and effective regulation of key infrastructure sectors that will promote investment, reduce the costs and increase productivity in transport energy, tele-communications and other “soft” infrastructure services that have the greatest impact on US-sub Saharan Africa trade and investment. · Advance African regional economic integration efforts by promoting regulatory harmonization, trade facilitation and strategic development of regional transportation corridors, regional power generation capacity, telecommunications and other infrastructure services that promote integrated larger markets, cross border production and regional value chain. · Highlight trade opportunities for opportunities for both US and Africa businesses and joint ventures in sub-Saharan Africa in the transport, energy, telecommunication and other infrastructure sectors.