The United States of America’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be complementary and supportive trade initiatives, according to Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA.
Mene spoke at a media briefing on the side lines of the ongoing AGOA forum held in Johannesburg. AGOA is a US-led initiative aimed at enhancing market access for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the AfCFTA is an African Union initiative aimed at boosting and enhancing intra-trade across all African states.
Mene said that there are a number of ways in which AGOA and the AfCFTA can be aligned. For example, the protocol on investment under the AfCFTA establishes enhanced legal rights for investors but also enables countries to regulate investment inflows in the public interest. Similarly, the US Trade Representative has been clear that it supports reforms of the global patent system so that it is at the service of public health and industrial development and job creation in Africa.
Mene warned that the continent must be “cautious not to create fragmentation within the AfCFTA as we implement AGOA.” He noted that there are countries in North Africa that are state parties to both the AfCFTA and AGOA. “We have got to address that fragmentation so that we don’t reverse the gains that we are making in integrating the economy of the African continent,” he said.
Mene said that the US is “willing to listen and is sensitive to this need to progress on integration.” He also emphasized that the possibility of AGOA becoming an obstacle for the implementation of the AfCFTA is a “technical issue” and not a “political issue.”
“We are taking measures to ensure that the implementation of AGOA supports industrial development, supports regional integration [and] supports the objectives of the AfCFTA,” Mene concluded.