The United States and Togo co-hosted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Lomé, Togo August 8-10. The Forum brought together senior government officials from the United States and 38 Sub-Saharan African AGOA-eligible countries to discuss ways to boost economic cooperation and trade between the United States and Africa. The African Union and regional economic communities will also participate.
On June 25, 2015, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation to re-authorize AGOA for an additional ten years. This is a strong signal that investors can and should invest with confidence in Africa.
Total African exports under AGOA more than quadrupled since the program’s inception. As of June 2015, AGOA eligible countries have exported nearly $480 billion worth of goods to the United States under AGOA and the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences.
By providing duty-free access to the U.S. market, AGOA has succeeded in helping eligible nations grow, diversify their exports to the United States, and create employment and inclusive economic growth. Under AGOA, eligible countries can export products, including value-added manufactured items such as textiles, to the United States duty-free.
AGOA and Professional Exchange
Since 2000, the United States has promoted economic growth and development in Africa through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a preferential trade agreement with eligible sub-Saharan African countries. AGOA legislation provides member countries with the most liberal access to U.S. markets apart from countries or regions with which the U.S. has a Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. commitment to deepen economic relations with sub-Saharan Africa has facilitated investment, created business linkages, and unlocked opportunities for entrepreneurship in the region.
Opportunities for AWEP through AGOA
AWEP women are accomplished entrepreneurs and the owners and leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses in Africa. Through AGOA, AWEP entrepreneurs can better access U.S. markets to expand their businesses and increase trade capacity both regionally and internationally. Many of their companies engage in exporting under the terms of AGOA, while others are working to increase their export capacity and establish business relationships with U.S. partners. All are leaders in their communities and many are members or leaders of women’s business organizations in their countries.
Annual AGOA Forum
Every year, the United States and AGOA member countries come together to discuss issues of economics, trade, and investment at an annual AGOA Forum. During the Forum, AWEP entrepreneurs can participate in meetings and networking opportunities with U.S. policy makers, companies and industry associations, U.S. and African civil society, nonprofit organizations advocating for women’s economic opportunities, multilateral development organizations, and business alliances. The women will also have the opportunity to interact with African ministers of trade, finance, and agriculture during the AGOA Forum.
Additionally, alumnae of the program host a side event during the Forum that showcases the women’s expanding businesses, entrepreneurial abilities, and capacities for trade and investment. The AWEP event enhances the program’s visibility among investors, members of civil society, U.S. policymakers, and African ministers.
AWEP Professional Exchange
The State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) professional exchange is AWEP’s primary program tailored to introduce AWEP participants to U.S. business leaders, policymakers, industry associations, nonprofit organizations, and multilateral development organizations. These annual three-week exchanges coincide with the AGOA Forum when hosted in Washington, DC; and are designed to help the participants build business alliances, develop advocacy and communication skills, identify resources to advance women’s entrepreneurship, and take advantage of opportunities for U.S. partnerships through AGOA.
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that targets African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth, increase trade both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.
Globally, women make up 50 percent of the global population, 40 percent of the global workforce, yet only own about 1 percent of the world’s wealth. Given the opportunity, women invest the majority of their income into their families and communities, but unfortunately most women experience unnecessary barriers that limit their ability to fully participate in the economy.
In Africa, women are the backbone of communities and the continent’s greatest potential to unlocking economic growth as they provide the majority of labor with the least amount of resources. Reductions in the gender gap in education, health, political participation, and economic inclusion will result in an increase in the continent’s economic competitiveness.
Through the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), the U.S. Department of State seeks to dismantle the obstacles to business opportunities and economic participation that African women face. Launched in July 2010, the initiative identifies and builds networks of women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa poised to transform their societies by owning, running, and operating small and medium businesses, and by becoming voices for social advocacy in their communities.
For more information, including information for investors interested in the AWEP program, please contact: AWEP@state.gov.
AWEP alumnae can build on professional exchange experiences, expand their networks, and access additional resources through the International Exchange Alumni website.