Enacted in May 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has served as the cornerstone of U.S. trade and investment policy for sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the legislation has received several amendments, with the first extension scheduled for September 2015, after the initial eight years of implementation. However, given the success and bipartisan support of this preferential trade program, an additional ten years was granted to the program.
AGOA represents a shift from the traditional aid-based approach to the African continent to one that favors trade and commercial engagement. It builds on the existing Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and allows Sub-Saharan African countries meeting a certain number of eligibility requirements — mainly focused on market-based economy principles, rule of law, and human rights — to have duty-free and quota-free access to the U.S. market for qualifying products. In return, the legislation provides an opportunity to forge new trade and investment partnerships with African countries, while allowing the U.S. to pursue its strategic and global security interests on the continent.
This statement examines AGOA’s performance, from inception to date, and provides some recommendations to help achieve its objectives and improve the next generation of the program, after the current expiration of September 30, 2025.