“I am going on from Nigeria to Ethiopia to talk to the leaders of the African Union about African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which is our legislation that allows for 6,400 different goods from countries in sub-Saharan Africa to be sold into the United States tariff free. We want to see that legislation renewed,” US commerce secretary Penny Pritzker told CNBC Africa an exclusive interview.
AGOA offers the opportunity for sub-Saharan African countries to continue to diversify their economies and sell more to the United States and that is one area the USA is focused on.
(WATCH VIDEO: Opportunities AGOA presents for entrepreneurs in Nigeria)
AGOA was signed into law on May 18, 2000 as Title 1 of The Trade and Development Act of 2000. The Act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.
Speaking in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, Pritzker said that United States had expanded the footprint of their foreign commercial service in Africa.
“We have four countries that we are bringing new foreign commercial service officers to. These are folks that help American companies that want to do business in Africa or other parts of the world.”
The new countries that we are said to be bringing foreign commercial services are, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique.
The US commerce secretary is leading a delegation of more than 20 companies who she said see the great opportunity in coming to the continent as part of a trade mission.
“The companies that I brought are focused predominantly on the energy sector and they do everything from services to technology, manufacturing to help with both generation, transmission distribution and including renewable energies. It’s a broad array of companies and they are thrilled at the opportunities they are finding,” said Pritzker.
(READ MORE: Boko Haram exploits Nigeria’s slow military decline)
On security threat in Africa and especially Nigeria, the commerce secretary said the situation in North Nigeria with Boko Haram was very concerning and that America is working very closely with the Nigerian government to give them support but that won’t stop investments into Nigeria and other parts of the continent.
“American companies see the opportunity here in Nigeria and other parts of Africa and are able to sort out the differences and realise there are plenty of places where good business can be done. As I said, they see the growth, they understand, as the president said, Africa is the next economic success story in the world, and they want to be here and they want to partner and do good business,” she noted.
“One of the things that is so great about leading American businesses which is what I get to do, they are so committed to transparency, to rule of law, to being part of the community and so they want to come, they want to do good business and they want to be part of your communities.”
The commerce secretary said that one of the most important things for Africa was that government, civil society, business leaders should come together and find a locally grown solution to some of the challenges that Africa is facing in terms of governance, whether its business governance or over sight, or rule of law, or commitment to enforcing.
“People need to come together, the leaders across both business, governance and civil society and say, we need to adopt the kind of standards and implementation that is expected that will then encourage further investment and innovation in community and in the economy here.”
(READ MORE: Transformation and growth for Africa)
The secretary said that from the trade and investment pillar, the US is focused on getting AGOA seamlessly renewed because that will allow so many goods and services from Africa to go tariff free into the United States.
She said the USA was also working on developing laws so that it’s easier to have standardised documents or standardised agreements.
“For example, in the power sector, which is the group I am leading here on this trade mission, it’s easier for business to get done in amore expeditious fashion. So, there are a number of things that we are doing, the state department also provides expertise and facilitation in certain types of trade, so there’s a lot that is happening that is supporting both our economic relations as well as our political relations.”
BY: DARA RHODES