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Thursday, February 22, 2024
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GAMBIA REGAINS AGOA STATUS

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By Omar Bah

The United States of America has officially regained The Gambia as beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), effectively extending Banjul’s ability to export certain commodities to the US duty-free. The West African country was removed from the list in 2003, reinstated and removed again in 2014.

In that year, the US presidential proclamation said The Gambia, along with South Sudan and Swaziland, failed to meet conditions (to remain on the AGOA list) without specifying them.

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But in a decree dated December 29, President Joe Biden said he had “determined” that The Gambia and 31 countries “have met the requirements” necessary to allow them to continue benefiting from the trade deal.

Agoa is an acronym for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a US trade preference program that provides duty-free access to the US market for eligible sub-Saharan African countries. It aims to promote economic growth, trade, and investment in Africa by reducing barriers and supporting reforms. The arrangement covers over 1,800 products, including apparel, footwear, wine, chemicals, steel, and many others.

Uganda, others removed

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The United States has however officially struck out Uganda and three other African countries as beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), effectively ending Kampala’s ability to export certain commodities to the US duty-free.

President Joe Biden said he had “determined” that the four countries “do not meet the requirements” necessary to allow them to continue benefiting from the trade deal, effecting his earlier stated plans to delist them.

“Accordingly, I have decided to terminate the designations of the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries for purposes of section 506A of the Trade Act, effective January 1, 2024,” read the statement by the US President.

In an October 2023 letter to the speaker of the US Congress expressing his intention to remove the four countries from the list of Agoa beneficiaries, Mr Biden said Uganda has “engaged in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.” This came after President Yoweri Museveni assented to the anti-gay law passed by the Ugandan lawmakers, which introduced serious repercussions, including life imprisonment or death, for same-sex relations in the country.

Uganda’s expulsion from the deal could destroy thousands of jobs, cause a foreign-exchange earnings drought, and low utilisation of raw materials locally, experts have warned.

Agoa is set to expire in December 2025, but American leaders, including trade officials, have expressed intention to extend it. Uganda could be readmitted into the programme if it shows commitment to meet the set criteria, which could mean scrapping its anti-gay law.

Other countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have been removed from the list are Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Gabon, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

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